As many Florida homeowners know, a hurricane or tropical storm can cause a great deal of damage to a property.
If you need to file an insurance claim after a major storm or another natural disaster, there are a few steps you should take to give yourself the best chance at a positive outcome.
To start, it’s important to make a list of all items damaged in the hurricane or storm, using a pen and paper or a mobile device. The latter will allow you to take photos of everything that has been damaged, which could aid in the claims process. Be sure to take note of any substantial damage to the structure of your home or business, along with any other damaged items like motor vehicles, appliances, electronics and furniture. If possible, try to find any receipts you may have for these valuables.
Learn what your insurance policy covers
When it comes to filing an insurance claim, you should have a good idea of what your policy does and does not cover. For example, some types of damage—such a tree falling on your house—will likely be covered under your policy. On the other hand, other types of damage stemming from a hurricane could be more complicated.
Another insurance-related issue unique to hurricanes is that your deductible may be different than it is for other types of claims. Most homeowners’ insurance policies have a standard deductible (such as $1,000 or $1,500) before coverage kicks in. Many Florida insurers have a separate process, which you can find on your policy’s “declaration” page, when it comes to hurricanes. This process often involves a percentage system rather than a set deductible amount.
A hurricane or major storm can often cause considerable damage to motor vehicles. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to file a separate claim with your car insurance provider. In many cases, car insurance coverage for this type of damage is more comprehensive than a homeowners’ insurance policy, and thus you may be more likely to receive a fair payout.
Be careful about cleanup
After a hurricane causes damage to your property, it’s natural to want to start the cleanup process right away. However, you should avoid making any substantial repairs to your home, especially if an insurance claims adjuster has not yet visited the property to assess the damage. If you’ve already made repairs or disposed of damaged items, you risk not getting compensated for them.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to make emergency repairs for safety or livability purposes, be sure to take comprehensive photos of the damage first. Recording video is even better. But again, the fewer repairs you make before the claims adjuster arrives, the better off you will be.
Time is of the essence
Insurance companies in Florida are often overwhelmed with claims after a hurricane, and they tend to serve the policyholders they hear from first. To that end, you need to act quickly to get your claim processed in an efficient manner. Check your policy immediately and learn how your insurer requires you to submit a claim, as each provider has a slightly different process.
Whether you submit your claim over the phone, online or through other means, be sure to notify the insurance provider that you have conducted an inventory of all damaged items and if you are unable to continue living at the property. After that, the company will send out an insurance claims adjuster to visit your property, assess the damage and determine how much the payout will be.
Making a homeowners’ insurance claim can be challenging, especially after a hurricane or tropical storm in Florida. If you need legal support as you make your way through the claims process, consult a knowledgeable Orlando hurricane insurance claims attorney with Johnson & Williams, P.A.