With much of Florida still underwater, millions of people and businesses
without power, and hundreds of thousands of damaged homes, it may seem
an odd time for victims of Hurricane Irma to think about legal services.
But as first responders help those in need, we at the DDJ Property Claims
Division are already working to assist victims with a process that can
be almost as stressful as a natural disaster itself: rebuilding.
Disasters like Irma can create legal crises for families that last long
after the waters recede. Thousands of home and business owners may be
contacting their insurance company to file an insurance claim, and resources
are likely to be stretched and frustration with claims will grow, as seen
with past storms. We want everyone to stay safe and also be in a condition
to recover as best as they can.
If you are a homeowner or business owner affected by Hurricane Irma, you
will need to know how to deal with your insurance company to ensure you
receive the compensation and aid you need and deserve. Here are a few
claim tips for filing your insurance claim that will make the process
easier and possibly protect your claim from denial or other problems.
1. Call your insurance agent immediately. Most insurance policies mandate
that you give notice to the insurance company “immediately”
after the damage occurs. If you wait too long to contact your insurance
company, the carrier may claim that it was “prejudiced” by
your “delay” in notifying the carrier of your claim and may
attempt to avoid covering your claim as a result.
2. Always get everything in writing. It is important to always document
all communications so that you can avoid any conflicts or misunderstandings
down the road.
3. Take lots of pictures and/or videos. Pictures and videos are important
to show the condition of your property after the storm and to document
the damage. It is also crucial to document any damage to personal property
(furniture, clothing, electronics) so that you can seek adequate reimbursement
for the loss of such items.
4. Point out all damage to the insurance representative. After your claim
has been received, an insurance representative will come and inspect your
property. It is crucial that you report all damage to your property. Remember,
the insurance representative does not work for you, but instead works
for the insurance company. Even though the adjuster may be friendly and
professional, he or she is not an advocate for the full payment of your loss.
Types of damage:
- Roofing damage
- Siding damage
- Window damage
- Structural damage
- Fire or electrical damage
- Interior damage
5. Flood vs. Wind Damage. Since Hurricane Irma caused both flood and wind
damage, your homeowners insurance company may try to deny coverage for
some of your damage by claiming the damage was caused by water and not
wind. In general, your homeowners’ insurance policy covers damage
caused by wind; your flood insurance policy covers damage caused by rising
water. The dispute over whether damage is covered by flood or homeowners’
insurance has generated mountains of litigation. You attorney can dispute
this claim by showing that the hurricane caused the water damage.
Insurance companies will offer you a settlement based on the adjuster’s
estimate of your damages. In many cases, the offer is much lower than
expected. Insurers do this because they know that claimants are often
facing significant damage they need to repair fast, and that this creates
a sense of urgency to settle.
However, you have the right to appeal a denial or lowball settlement offer.
In fact, we encourage you to exercise this right so you hold the insurance
company to the coverage you are paying for every month when you pay your premium.
If your insurance claim has been delayed, denied or underpaid, call the
DDJ Property Claims department for a free consultation. Our experienced
attorneys understand how to successfully file Florida insurance claims—and
how to effectively represent our clients’ interests when insurers
refuse to pay valid claims. For free information,
call Darrigo, Diaz & Jimenez Attorneys at Law at 813-877-5548. #IrmaDamageDDJ