The insurance company has several deadlines when it comes to hurricane claims.
The claims of people with the most severe losses are given the highest priority – so someone who loses their home is going to have their claim dealt with before someone who lost some shingles due to wind.
Insurance companies are processing a lot of claims in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane, so if you don’t hear back right away it may just indicate they are busy with policy holders who have lost more.
However, if those deadlines pass and you’ve heard no word you should certainly contact the insurance company and maybe even look into scheduling a consultation with a property damage attorney or public claims adjuster.
Preferably, and not just one – getting repair estimates from at least two licensed and reputable contractors will give more validity to your claim. It’s harder for the insurance company to suggest two professionals independently overvalued your damage estimates.
Getting estimates right after a storm isn’t always easy given how busy contractors can get, but if you can get a couple of estimates it may help your claim.
Yes, you need to make an attempt to prevent more damage from occurring.
This scenario is a common occurrence in Florida. A homeowner’s roof suffers minor damage during a hurricane or tropical storm – like the loss of some shingles, then another storm comes before they can get a professional to repair the roof. The preexisting damage allows further damage to occur (like water getting in through the missing shingles).
In that case, the insurance company may deny part of your claim or offer you less because they’ll say you could have prevented the additional damage from the second storm but failed to take the necessary steps to do so.
Be sure to take pictures of the damage as soon as possible, take pictures of any temporary repairs you make and save your receipts if you spent money on the repairs.
An unfortunate reality of life in Florida are hurricane deductibles. They are generally based on home valuation. If you have a $300,000 home and a two percent hurricane deductible it would be $6,000.
Florida insurance companies are required to offer several hurricane deductible options, including $500, two percent, five percent and 10 percent of your home policy value. The lower hurricane deductibles have higher premiums attached.
Hurricane deductibles apply to damage sustained between a hurricane watch or warning being issued through 72 hours after the warning ends.
There are a lot of scenarios where a homeowner may file a claim for $4,000 worth of hurricane damage, only to find out that your hurricane deductible is actually $6,000 – or potentially a lot more – which technically means they have to pay for all the repairs out of pocket.
This is unfortunate but it is legal. If you have questions or you think the estimate is too low, consider speaking with another contractor or a public adjuster.
Make sure to shop around your homeowners coverage and find out how much more your premiums will be for the lower hurricane deductibles. If you are in a high-risk part of Florida, it may be worth paying a bit more for the lower hurricane deductible.
Several reasons, some of which are bigger and more real problems than others.
There has been a legitimate problem in Florida with some contractors taking advantage of homeowners and insurance companies with hurricane claims.
For example, a shady contractor may approach a homeowner with hurricane damage and tell the owner that their company will take over the claims process. The contractor says that whatever they can get for the claim is what the repairs will cost the homeowner; essentially the homeowner pays nothing out of pocket for repairs. Plus, the homeowner doesn’t have to deal with the insurance company on the claim, which sounds like a win-win, right?
The problem is these contractors inflate damages and estimated repair costs, do minimal repairs – sometimes very poorly – and then pocket the majority of the claim payment.
These disreputable contractors put insurers on the defensive when it came to dealing with all Florida contractors on claims, both legitimate ones and illegitimate ones. It made it so when a legitimate contractor really needed $50,000 to fix a home the insurance company fought the claim, assuming bad intentions.
Florida passed House Bill 7065 in 2019 to combat these predatory claim tactics, which you can learn more about from one of our past blogs. As is the case with many legislative corrective actions, Florida’s attempt to fix the problem made some aspects of hurricane claims harder on people who have legitimate damages.
There’s also the matter of claim volume and inexperience.
Insurance companies, just like any other business, make their hiring decisions on how many adjusters, examiners and investigators to hire based on normal business demand.
During normal times insurers may only need about 17,000 adjusters in Florida to deal with regular claim volume.
When a hurricane hits, and the average volume of claim filings jumps up by a huge margin. Those 17,000 adjusters will have trouble adequately handling the surge.
Insurance companies also have those legally mandated deadlines to meet. This can lead to rushed investigations or subpar work by temporary adjusters who were hired in a hurry and put to work to deal with the surge in claims with minimal training.
This urgency and lack of training can sometimes result in missed damage, unfair valuations and poor treatment of legitimate claims by homeowners.
There’s also the matter of cost and policy complexity. Insurance companies would prefer to keep money rather than give it out as claim payments. Insurance policy contracts are filled with excluded perils to minimize the types of damage they actually have to pay for. Some of those exclusions and policy restrictions have been written specifically because past Florida hurricanes have been so expensive.
Put simply, policy holders must be their own advocates in hurricane claim negotiations. If you believe your claim is being treated unfairly, you should strongly consider taking action. Speaking with an public adjuster or hurricane damage lawyer may give you some valuable context on how you should proceed.