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21 08, 2019

Tips to Prepare Your Home, Family, and Insurance Claim for the 2019 Hurricane Season

By |2019-08-21T10:45:55-04:00August 21st, 2019|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law|Tags: , , , , , , |

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.

22 10, 2018

Hurricane Michael Insurance Claim?

By |2018-10-22T11:40:08-04:00October 22nd, 2018|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law, Insurance Claims|Tags: , , , |

Hurricane Michael formed from a tropical disturbance off of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. As a loosely organized tropical system, it rapidly formed into a hurricane on October 7, 2018 and subsequently made landfall in the Florida Panhandle at Mexico Beach on October 10, 2018, as a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane. While most Floridians were spared any significant damage from Hurricane Michael, the Florida Panhandle, specifically the cities of Mexico Beach and Panama City, suffered the worst of this major Category 4, almost Category 5, hurricane. To put the power of this hurricane in perspective, Hurricane Michael was the third-most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the United States only behind the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille in 1969. It was the strongest in terms of maximum sustained winds since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. All of these unfortunate stats mean that the Florida Panhandle has been decimated by this force of nature.

Hurricane Michael Insurance Adjusting

While the nation and most of Florida watched as the Hurricane Michael narrowed its sights on the Panhandle, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people were going to be devastated by this hurricane. Not only from the damages it has incurred, but the impact it would have on their lives and livelihoods. In times such as these, home and business owners often take some relief in the fact that they have insurance policies in place for hurricane and flood damage. They hope that once the wind subsidies and waters recede, their insurance companies will pay insurance benefits to repair their home or business. Unfortunately, this belief is all too often untrue. Homeowners and flood insurance companies do their best to adjust the claims which will be forthcoming after Michael however; they will be flooded with these claims. As a result, claims will be wrongly underpaid or outright denied. The causes of these underpayments and denials are far-reaching but many result in the fact that the insurance companies enlist ill-prepared field adjustors and claims handlers which results in poor coverage decisions on behalf of home and business owners. Unfortunately, the home and/or business owner is left with dealing with the harsh reality that an insurance company may not be fully covering what it is legally obligated to cover. In order to help the victims of Hurricane Michael, I have put together a list of items an home or business owner may find helpful in facilitating their own insurance claim. Provided the insured has performed everything they’re supposed to under the policy, then it is up to the insurance company to do the right thing. If the insurance company refuses to do the right thing, Property Damage Attorney Jonathon Douglas stands by ready to assist in any way possible.

What to do for your Hurricane Michael Insurance Claim

Most insurance policies typically have a section entitled “Your Duties After Loss”. These duties are directed at the policyholder and should be complied with to avoid any sort of coverage issues that the insurance company may try to assert. A trick in this paragraph is oftentimes found in the first sentence wherein the insurance company sometimes states that “we have no duty to provide coverage under this policy if the failure to comply with the following duties is prejudicial to us.” This is sample language from a HO-3 Homeowner’s policy; however, it illustrates the potential for a “gotcha”-type tactic insurance companies can use to avoid providing insurance coverage. Generally, an insured (homeowner or business owner) must perform the following:

  • Give prompt notice to the insurance company or your insurance agent.
  • Provide reasonable access to the property to allow the insurance company to inspect the loss.
  • To the extent reasonable, retain damaged property and allow inspection of same prior to disposal.
  • Protect the covered property from further damage. This means you must take reasonable emergency measures that are necessary to protect covered property from additional damage and you must keep an accurate record of repair expenses.
  • Cooperate with the insurance company during the investigation of the claim.
  • Prepare an inventory of damaged personal property in the format requested by the insurance company.
  • As often as the insurance company requires:
    • Provide records and documentation insurance company requests;
    • Submit to recorded statements when requested;
    • Submit to an examination under oath if requested;
    • Allow samples to be taken of the damaged or undamaged property;
    • Execute any and all authorizations for release of information requests by the insurance company.
  • Provide the insurance company with a proof of loss form when requested.

Cooperating with your insurance company is imperative to facilitating the adjustment of the claim. While you may fully cooperate with the insurance company, this does not guarantee or ensure the insurance company will fairly and accurately adjust your claim. Remember, there is always the option to get a second opinion on the value of your claim. St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon Douglas and his team focus on providing homeowners and business-owners evaluation and analysis of their insurance claims and will provide the much-needed second opinion related to your Hurricane Michael insurance claim. Don’t settle for what the insurance company initially offers to pay or their initial coverage decision! Call us now for a free consultation.

9 10, 2018

Hurricane Michael Preparedness

By |2018-10-09T14:27:43-04:00October 9th, 2018|Categories: Hurricane Damage Law, Insurance Claims, Tree Damage Law|Tags: , , , |

As Tropical Storm Michael formed into a Category 1 hurricane on October 8, 2018, I couldn’t help but recall the weeks-long drama leading up to the landfall of Hurricane Irma in September of 2017. Unlike Irma, which developed off the coast of Africa, Hurricane Michael developed from a low-pressure system off the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. While Floridians will not have nearly the amount of time to prepare as they did for Irma’s landfall, there is still plenty of time to take necessary precautions to protect your property and safety. The forecast has Hurricane Michael making landfall Wednesday, October 10th, along the Panhandle/Big Bend area of Florida. According to recent news reports, Hurricane Michael is forecast to strengthen to a Category 3 prior to making landfall. Hurricanes with a rating of Category 3 or higher are considered to be “major” hurricanes. The sustained winds in a Category 3 storm are between 111-129 mph. According to the National Hurricane Center, the type of damage resulting from a Category 3 storm is considered “devastating”. The National Hurricane Center defines devastating damage as “well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Water and electricity will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.”

Considering the nature of this rapidly strengthening hurricane, Governor Rick Scott extended a State of Emergency for the Tampa Bay area as well as areas along the Panhandle and Big Bend. Governor Scott was quoted as saying “This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous”. The life-threatening nature of hurricanes often times occur after the hurricane has already passed but the damage has prevented people from receiving emergency medical treatment based upon road closures, power outages, and supply chain interruptions. Accordingly, to avoid these life-threatening type of scenarios and to heed Governor Scott’s warning, please follow of all evacuation recommendations made by authorities. If you are in an evacuation zone, do not take this recommendation lightly. Only take what you really need with you like your cell phone, medicines, identification, and cash. Be sure you have an emergency kit for your vehicle and ample fuel in your vehicle to avoid the path of the hurricane and seek a safe evacuation location. Finally, be sure to follow the roads which emergency workers recommend, even if there is traffic. Other roads may be blocked and while services such as Waze or Google Maps may show open roads, these roads can quickly become overrun or blocked by debris.

It is important to give consideration to developing an evacuation plan which you share with friends and family members outside of the evacuation area. This will allow them to know where you should be at important time intervals, even in the absence of cell phone service. Developing a written evacuation plan does wonders in reducing the already astronomically high levels of stress that evacuees are going through as well as reducing the stress of their loved ones not impacted by the evacuation orders.

While Michael is developing into a major hurricane, please be sure to stay up to date on the latest news developments. If you are able, try to take photographs of your home/business as well as personal belongings within each so as to document any and all before and after evidence which will be valuable in your hurricane property damage claim which will follow Hurricane Michael. Hurricane Michael will be causing significant damage to homes and businesses throughout the Panhandle area of Florida. It is important to immediately report your insurance claim when the infrastructure and reporting avenues are renewed. Even though an insurance policyholder may have coverage for hurricane loss, this does not mean that the insurance company will properly or fairly adjust your Hurricane Michael claim. Please remember that it is very important to receive a second opinion with regard to your hurricane damage insurance claim. As oftentimes is the case, insurance companies hire outside adjusting firms who may not have the knowledge or experience to fully and fairly adjust your hurricane loss. Accordingly, don’t delay in contacting St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon W. Douglas for a free consultation regarding your Hurricane Michael insurance claim.

11 09, 2018

What to Do If You Have Had Fire or Tree Damage

By |2018-09-11T12:08:35-04:00September 11th, 2018|Categories: Fire Damage Law, Tree Damage Law|Tags: , , , |

Owning a home is a responsibility. There are so many things to take care of and to pay attention to. Every homeowner needs to be concerned about the damage that can happen to their home and what they can do about it.

Fire or Tree Damage Can Happen To A Home Easily

For many people, fire or tree damage happens and is dreaded. It can be caused by a storm or other type of occurrence or by neglect. Homeowners will want to check the fire or tree damage as soon as something happens. It will be a good idea for them to contact an expert so that they understand what they need to do in order to get their home back in order. For many people, an attorney will be needed.

Finding A Good Attorney

In order to find a good attorney, many people ask other people for recommendations. They ask their friends, family, and co-workers who they have used in the past. This is because they need to be able to trust someone enough to tell them information about their home.

Know Your Rights When You Have A Problem With Your Home

It is very important that you know your rights when you are searching for a lawyer to help you with problems with your home. When you know your rights, you will be able to enlist the help of a lawyer that will give you the proper information that is needed to get your home back in order.

Other Ways To Locate A Good Lawyer To Help You

If you need to find a lawyer and the people that you know do not know of one, you can do a search on the Internet. Try to find one that is close in proximity to either your home or work. You will want them to be available when you need them.

Trusting The Lawyer Is Important

When you first have a consultation with the lawyer, you will want to make sure that you can trust them. Be sure that you have a good rapport with the lawyer so that you can be as honest as possible when you are dealing with them. In most cases, the consultation phase is free. Bring along photographs of the damage that was caused to your property so that the lawyer can have the information to keep in your file.

How Can The Lawyer Be Of Help?

Depending on what caused the damage to your home, the lawyer will be able to get you the money that is necessary to fix the problems. This may include dealing with your home insurance company. Be sure to give the lawyer all of the information from your home insurance policy. The lawyer will be able to discuss specific points with the insurance company to get you the money that is needed in order to repair the damages.

How Much Will The Lawyer Cost?

This will all depend on the lawyer that you choose. During the consultation phase, you will receive the information that you need in order to understand how much you will need to pay them. You will also receive information on what means of payment they will take for their service. In most cases, they will accept cash, checks and credit cards.

How Long Will The Process Take?

The process will take more time depending on how much damage there is to your home or property. Be prepared for it to take a while. Have several ways for you to get in touch with your lawyer. A cell phone number is a great way to be able to reach them when you need to. Texting is easy for many people to do, and you will be able to contact your lawyer quickly when you need to.

After The Case Is Completed

You will want to keep your lawyer’s information in case you need them again in the future. They will be extremely beneficial to you.

Since you are the owner of your home, make sure that you are making the time to do the upkeep that is necessary. When you do this, you can feel proud of the place that you live in. Don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer if you find that your house or property has been damaged. They can help you in so many ways.