The 2019 hurricane season is upon us. It began on May 20, 2019, and runs through November 30, 2019. Just passing the halfway mark, the tropics have been fairly quiet (knocking on wood now!). However, a quite beginning should not give rise to a false sense of security. Being hurricane prepared throughout the entire season is exceptionally important. We all remember the long lead time that Irma gave the entire state of Florida, but even with this lead time, the storm was devastating and people were still unable to be fully prepared. The homeowner’s insurance claim team at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus and McQuaid, P.A. wants to provide some valuable tips to help you and your family prepare for the worst and hope for the best when it comes to the 2019 hurricane season.
Preparing your home is one area of preparation that can be done in advance of a hurricane watch or warning. One of the most obvious tasks is to be sure all of your home’s exterior openings have the appropriate protection. Whether that means hurricane rated windows, shutters or plywood, protecting all of your home’s exterior openings is crucial.
If you have hurricane rated windows, doors, and garage doors, this should suffice. However, we recommend checking the window and door ratings to be sure that they are actually rated for the velocity zone where your home is located. If you do not have hurricane rated windows and doors, be sure to have a plan in place regarding how you will protect your home’s exterior openings. Properly fabricated and fastened plywood over windows and doors can be effective if installed properly. Additionally, these plywood pieces can be pre-cut in advance and stored for easier installation. If there are any questions about how to protect your home’s openings, contact a contractor to have them help in exploring your options for hurricane proofing the exterior of your home. Alternatively, you may wish to invest in some sort of shuttering system. There are many different options on the market at varying price points. Regardless of what type of protection you choose for your home, be sure to choose something before the hurricane warning or watch.
Preparing your home for a hurricane also means preparing your home for a hurricane insurance claim. In the event of an evacuation, be sure to have all of your insurance policies with you in a safe and waterproof container. You will need the vital information on these policies to help in making your hurricane claim. Before the hurricane hits, it is advisable to take photographs or videos of the condition of your home both inside and out. This documentation will be helpful in establishing your home’s pre-loss condition. In the event of damage or loss to valuable personal property, be sure you have photos or videos of the property, proof of purchase, and the number of items. Insurance companies require this information before they will provide full value for your damaged personal property.
All insurance policies require prompt reporting of any insurance claim. After a devastating hurricane, power and cell phone reception is often down for days. Be sure to keep track of your efforts in attempting to report your insurance claim in the days and weeks after a hurricane. Insurance companies are inundated with claims after a hurricane and therefore, you must be persistent in reporting your claim and following up with the claims adjusters.
Unfortunately, many of the insurance adjusters who are dispatched to adjust hurricane losses are not full-time Florida adjusters. While it is required that adjusters are licensed in Florida to adjust hurricane losses on behalf of an insurance company, this does not equate to having experience in adjusting Florida hurricane claims. It may seem hard to believe, but we have seen Hurricane Irma claims that have actually been denied! In addition to the denied hurricane claims, the adjusters on behalf of the insurance company more often than not underestimate the total value of a hurricane loss leaving homeowners severely underpaid for their hurricane claims. Couple this underpayment with sometimes expensive deductibles can leave a homeowner, who believed they were covered for a hurricane loss, tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hole.
The solution for Florida homeowners if they find themselves in a situation where the insurance company has denied or underpaid a claim is to immediately seek the assistance of an experienced insurance claim attorney. If the insurance company fails to pay what you are entitled to, the attorney can file a lawsuit for breach of contract to hold the insurance company accountable for what they are contractually obligated to pay a policyholder in the event of a covered loss. The laws in Florida are helpful to homeowners in this situation; if a homeowner is a prevailing party in a lawsuit against their own homeowner’s insurance company, then the insurance company has to pay for the homeowner’s attorney’s fees and costs. This aspect of homeowner insurance claim disputes helps homeowners in their most desperate time of need by allowing law firms to represent homeowners without requiring attorney’s fees or costs to be paid upfront but instead paid by the insurance company upon the resolution of the case.
Finally, how to prepare your family? Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. has put together a 2019 Hurricane Guide which you can download here. This guide has many suggestions for how to protect your family and home in advance of a hurricane. Some of the highlights include, following recommendations for evacuation, ensuring adequate medication for extended stays away from home, having adequate water supply, and be sure to have a plan in place for the family pet!
If you or anyone you know have any questions regarding hurricane preparedness or hurricane insurance coverages, please feel free to contact me for a free consultation.