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Florida Hurricane Insurance Claims Lawyer

As those who recently weathered Hurricane Irma can attest, hurricanes are some of the most destructive natural disasters that a family or home can undergo. Recognizing this, many Florida homeowners purchase insurance ahead of time to ensure that in the event of a storm, they are able to cover the cost of repairs and severe damage. Unfortunately, even homeowners who pay their premiums every month could be left in the lurch after a hurricane if their insurer refuses to pay a claim due to bad faith or a minor technicality. For this reason, it is in the best interest of those who have hurricane-related insurance claims to speak with an experienced Florida hurricane insurance claim lawyer who can ensure that their insurer does not take advantage of them during this difficult time.

Common Types of Hurricane Damage

Hurricanes are accompanied by heavy rains and strong winds that can leave roofs damaged, trees uprooted, and power lines torn down. However, the extent of the damage sustained by a home will largely depend on the strength of the hurricane’s wind speed, which is calculated using the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. Under these guidelines, hurricanes are given a category number ranging from one to five. Category 1 storms are those with wind gusts over 74 mph and are strong enough to damage shingles, siding, gutters, and shallowly rooted trees. Category 2 storms, on the other hand, are those with wind gusts exceeding 96 mph and typically cause major roof, siding, and power line damage. When winds exceed 111 mph, a hurricane’s rating will be increased to that of Category 3. Storms of this severity topple deeply rooted trees and usually knock out both power and water. Storms with wind gusts of 131 mph or more are labeled Category 4 hurricanes, which are extremely dangerous, leading to the complete loss of roofs and exterior walls, as well as the uprooting of most trees and power lines. The most severe hurricanes are Category 5 storms, which are those with gusts of over 155 mph and can cause roof failure and wall collapse.

Aside from dangerously strong winds, hurricanes are also notorious for being accompanied by heavy rains that can cause water damage in homes and even crack building foundations.

What to do After a Hurricane

Even when residents are forewarned of an impending hurricane and take steps to protect their property, hurricanes almost always cause some type of damage. In these situations, homeowners will want to consider taking the following steps:

  • Covering up damaged property with a tarp to prevent further water intrusion;
  • Photographing all damage, including damage to the roof, walls, yard, and interior of the building, as well as personal items;
  • Making an inventory of all damaged property to accompany the photographs; and
  • Filing an insurance claim as quickly as possible.

Those who fail to take these steps risk having their insurer deny their claim. For example, it is not uncommon for insurers to claim that damage sustained to a person’s home actually took place after the storm was over and was the result of the homeowner’s failure to prevent further damage through the placement of tarps. Failing to file a claim promptly can also lead to a delayed decision, as insurers may already be backlogged due to the submission of other hurricane-related claims.

What Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover?

Typically, Florida homeowner’s insurance policies cover wind, but not flooding, which means  that a person’s homeowner’s insurance policy would cover the cost of replacing the roof or siding damaged by hurricane winds, but would not cover the damage to the interior of the home caused by rising water. There is also a certain deductible for damage caused by hurricanes, which is set at a predetermined percentage and is based on the amount of the policy as a whole. This deductible must be met before the insurer will start paying for any damage, so it’s a good idea for homeowners to have a thorough understanding of exactly what their policy covers when they file a claim.

Because homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover flooding, it is not uncommon for claims adjusters to argue that damage resulting from a hurricane was caused not by wind, but from flooding. For example, if the windows of a home are broken and blown out due to the high winds accompanying a hurricane, but this breakage allowed water to enter the premises, the insurance company could deny a claim for compensation for the damage done to the interior of the home.

Insurer Tactics

Another difficult aspect of many hurricane claims is that thousands of people are often affected by the same storm and so all submit claims at the same time. This can lead to a delay in processing claims unless the insured has a lawyer fighting on their behalf. Unfortunately, this is not the only type of tactic used by insurance companies to avoid paying claims. It is not unheard of, for example, for an insurer to make a misleading or false statement about coverage or to flatly refuse to settle a legitimate claim. Homeowners should also keep an eye out for other bad faith actions, such as:

  • Offering undervalued estimates;
  • Attempting to force settlement of a claim under another policy;
  • Telling the homeowner that they do not need legal representation to resolve their claim; or
  • Requiring a written release of supplemental claims as a condition of payment or settlement.

Encountering any of these types of issues when dealing with an insurance provider can make it impossible for a claimant to begin making repairs on their home, so if you are involved in a dispute with your insurer over damage done to your home during a hurricane, you should consider speaking with an insurance claims lawyer who can help protect your interests.

Call a Dedicated Florida Insurance Claims Lawyer Today 

If your home was damaged during a hurricane and you have questions or concerns about what your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover or believe that your insurer is operating in bad faith, please contact The Pendas Law Firm at 1-888-573-6327 to schedule a meeting with an experienced Florida hurricane insurance claims lawyer who can evaluate your case. We are prepared to begin assisting you immediately.

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