Florida is synonymous with hurricanes—and the tremendous cost of the damage they cause. The annual price to the federal government is an estimated $28 billion, with 55 percent of that coming from the Sunshine State. If you own a home in Florida, you also know that damage from hurricanes can lead to a fight with your insurance company over claims. Once you’ve totaled everything up, you expect your insurer to honor all the terms of your policy. After all, you’ve diligently paid your premiums since you’ve owned your house. So, it may come as a shock when the insurance company offers you far less than you expected and what you need to accomplish all the repairs and replace furniture, clothing, utensils, appliances and other assets. Here is what you should know about how to fight those low-ball offers from your insurance company:
1. Don’t accept an offer you don’t agree with
It may be tempting to take your insurance company’s claim offer, but if you think it is unfair, chances are, you’re right. Sometimes, the adjuster has incomplete information or didn’t include those damages that aren’t immediately evident, such as problems behind interior walls or structural damage. If you don’t agree with the offer, you don’t need to take it, no matter how much pressure you’re getting from the insurance company to accept it.
2. Know what your claim is worth
Whatever the adjuster offers as a settlement, it’s based on his or her opinion as to what your claim is worth. That’s why it’s important to document your claim right away. Make sure you take pictures and make a list of all items damaged or destroyed: this includes furniture, appliances, clothing, household items and equipment. Take measures to ensure that any further, preventable damage is kept in check, such as using tarps to cover open areas…but not before you take photos. The time to review your policy is now (before the next, inevitable hurricane event) to make sure you understand what is covered and where you might need to beef up your coverage. It’s also a good idea to make an inventory of furniture, electronics and other assets in your home, along with receipts, and keep it in a safe place so everything is on hand when you need it.
3. Don’t accept the first offer
Yes, the first offer will always be low. Claim settlements are negotiable, no matter what the adjuster says. Moreover, the adjuster’s report may be inaccurate and certain covered items or damages may have been omitted. If you’re not sure how to handle the claim or feel pressured to accept the settlement, then your next step should be:
4. Talk to a hurricane claims attorney
Level the playing field. The insurance company has lawyers whose job it is to protect the company’s profits. You need an attorney who can ensure that your best interests, and your valuable assets, are protected.
Put our experience on your side
It is our goal to see to it that the settlement you get is full and fair. To learn more about how we can help, please call Johnson & Williams, P.A. at (407) 245-1268 or contact our office to schedule a consultation to discuss your needs.