Insurance Claim Tips as Hurricane Ian Races Towards the Florida Gulf Coast

Insurance Claim Tips as Hurricane Ian Races Towards the Florida Gulf Coast

We pay good money to insure our property, while hoping never to have to file claim. When disaster strikes you expect your insurance company to have your back. In a perfect world, your insurance carrier will send out their field adjuster following your notification of a loss. The adjuster will thoroughly inspect and properly value your damage and a check will be forthcoming in a reasonable amount of time.

Unfortunately, in our 38-years of practicing public adjusting, we often see too many cases where this is not the case. Questions arise, technical clauses of the insurance policy are brought forth by the insurance company or the policyholder misunderstands the coverage they thought they had. Additionally, the Florida Legislature has enacted many reforms in recent years specifically to address property insurance claim abuse and a weakened insurance market. This year, the Legislature passed two bills - Senate Bill 2D and Senate Bill 4D that further restricted the way some claims are treated.

Here are just a few key things you can do to protect your claim:

Pre-Storm

  1. Attain a complete copy of your insurance policy and be sure to:
  • Check that the policy period is current, and in full force - i.e., all premiums have been paid on or before the due date or within the grace period
  • Check for Additional Coverage Endorsements that are commonly listed on the policy Declaration Page.
  • Review your deductibles, mitigation, and post-loss duties.
  • Understand what your policy does not cover - i.e., any exclusionary language, property enhancement endorsement language and sub-limits for wind-driven.

 

  1. Ask for copies of Prior Building Valuations and/or Appraisal Reports including schedules: These would have been performed at the property by the insurance company during the underwriting process of the policy. Your insurance agent can obtain these, or you can ask the insurance company directly.
     
  2. Pre-Storm Photos: Take photographs or a video of your property inside and out to document the condition.
  3. Insurance and Personal Documents: Keep important documents in a waterproof container and create password-protected digital copies.
     
  4. Emergency Supply Kit: Key items in your kit should include: water, food, medicines, clothing and phone chargers. For help with putting together your list, visit: https://www.floridadisaster.org/planprepare/hurricane-supply-checklist/
     
  5. Secure your Property: Add waterproofing, use sandbags, clean drains and gutters, remove lawn debris, cover your windows, protect your doors, reinforce your roof, get a backup battery and/or generator.
     
  6. Evacuation Plan: Make sure you have an emergency evacuation plan in case you are forced to leave your property. Visit FloridaDisaster.org to determine what evacuation zone you are in. Map different routes in case there are road closures, downed trees, and/or traffic/accidents along the way.  This includes locating the nearest shelter and/or somewhere you can stay during and potentially after the storm. If you do need to evacuate, gather all necessary insurance information (referenced above) and bring that with you.

After the Storm

  1. Safety: Ensure that you, your family and your pets are safe. This is the most important thing. Your property and belongings can be replaced. You and your family cannot.
     
  2. Assess the damage and document it: Make sure to stay away from downed power lines and any area with the smell of gas. If you smell gas in the area, make sure to turn off any gas lines if possible. Take as many photos as possible of the entire property. Make sure to document the exterior, interior, your personal belongings and neighboring properties as well. This is crucial to show the insurance company what happened from the storm.
     
  3. Report your property damage: Timely report your claim and keep a detailed written dialogue with your insurance company every step of the way. We tell our clients to prepare a binder to organize all materials. This will prove invaluable if your claim runs into delay or denial issues.   Call your insurance company and report your damage as soon as possible. Insurance carriers receive about 50% of the claims they handle from major catastrophes within the first two weeks after the storm. In order to help expedite your claim, you want to get the process going ASAP!
  4. Screen contractors: Make sure to work with local and licensed contractors. Often times during catastrophes, out of state or even non-licensed contractors flood the area to drum up work. This can be detrimental to you during your claims process. Don’t be afraid to ask for their license and a copy of their insurance so you know they are legitimate. A little bit of research can go a long way to ensure that you are hiring the right people. Be very careful not to sign what is called an Assignment of Benefits agreement or clause in some contracts. You may be signing away the control and rights to any settlement monies from your claim.
     
  5. Hiring a public adjuster is an option: After a major storm, insurance companies try to rush their claims and get them closed ASAP. Often times, field adjusters rush through inspections to get as many done as quickly as they can. Unfortunately, adjusters sometimes rush through and miss reporting damage the insurance company should be paying for. This practice does not benefit you in your time of need. Hiring a public adjuster ensures that your damage is properly documented and submitted to avoid mistakes and a fair settlement is negotiated so you are fairly paid for your claim. After a disaster, having someone advocating for you can help relieve the stress and allow you to focus on more personal things.

As we repeatedly tell our clients, preparedness is always the key during peak months of hurricane season. The reality of post storm insurance claims is that most will be on their own for a good period, so it is critical to manage expectations, seek written approval from the insurance company for any decision you make and most important of all, check qualifications and licensure for any professionals you decide to hire.   

If you have questions regarding any property insurance claim related issues, please call our main Tampa Bay office at 813.454.0585 or contact us to submit a question to one of our public adjuster insurance claim experts. For more information visit PublicAdjuster.com for Claim Tips and follow our On-Property Blog.

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"On Property" Insurance Claim Tips Blog

Tips and advice about how to properly file and protect your property damage insurance claim and get a fair settlement. We invite all readers to ask questions about their claim so our public adjusters can post answers for others to benefit. Insurance claim expert guest bloggers welcome to submit posts via our contact form.

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Charles R. Tutwiler & Associates Inc., DBA Tutwiler & Associates Public Adjusters
Licensed Public Insurance Adjusters & Loss Consultants
Offices: Tampa, Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale, Palm City, Ft. Myers, Florida; Dallas, TX; Pittsburgh, PA

Executive Office
4300 W. Cypress St.
Suite 780
Tampa, FL 33607
Phone: 813.287.8090
Toll Free: 800.321.4488

Licensed in Florida # W840088 &
Texas #1399706 plus 16 other states
and the Virgin Islands