By Marcus Fernandez
If hurricane season in Florida makes you nervous, you have every right to be. Damage caused by hurricanes and tropical storms upset lives and cause billions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses. Hurricane Michael, which hit the state in July 2019, resulted in more than 150,000 insurance claims by homeowners and businesses. When Hurricane Irma struck in September 2017, the damage and destruction resulted in almost 1.62 million insurance claims with more than 22,000 of them filed by business and residential property owners in Hillsborough County.
Smart residents who devote time to hurricane preparation for their home ahead of hurricane season may minimize their risk. Yet, even the best preparation may not be enough to avoid the damage caused by storm’s high winds and flooding. It helps to have a good understanding of filing an insurance claim incase you are victim to hurricane damage. Learning the process now can help you avoid losing the right to file a claim in the future.
Time limitations the law imposes on your right to file a hurricane insurance claim
Damage caused by the winds and flooding of a hurricane can range from broken windows to the complete destruction. A devastating storm could make it impossible to find an available contractor. You need a contractor to evaluate the damage and provide you with an estimate for repairs.
Apart from issues related to the availability of contractors, severe damage to your home may cause you to suffer from stress and confusion. Keep in mind that regardless of the cause of the delay, Florida law imposes a three-year limit on the time within which you must file a claim with your insurance company for damages caused by a hurricane. The three years begins to run from the date the hurricane first made landfall. You must also file your claim within three years for damages caused by a windstorm. The time begins to run from the date of the damage.
Homeowners may delay filing a claim because of the mistaken belief that the damage would not be covered under their insurance policy. For example, damage caused by water entering your home during a hurricane may not be covered under your homeowners insurance policy if it was the result of flooding. However, wind damage, including damage caused by wind-driven rain that enters your home, maybe covered under your homeowners insurance policy.
Notify your insurance company of a claim whenever there is storm-related damage. Doing so protects you from losing the right to recover because you waited beyond the three-year limitation period.
Another mistake homeowners make is to believe the damage caused by a hurricane is minor and decide to do the repairs themselves or pay out of pocket to have them done. If hidden damage is later discovered, it could be too late to file a claim with your insurance company.
Prompt filing of claims protects your right to sue your insurer
Filing your hurricane insurance claim as soon as possible after the storm protects your right to sue your insurance company. As much as insurance companies want you to believe they work for you and have only your best interest at heart, the truth is that insurance companies do not make money by paying claims. Damage caused by a hurricane can lead to disputes with your insurance company about the following:
- Cost of repairs
- Extent of damages
- Policy coverage
- Cause of damage
- Value of the damaged property
When disputes arise between you and your insurance company, you have the right to sue to have the matter resolved by a court. However, you only have five years under Florida law within which to file a lawsuit to enforce the terms of your insurance policy. This assumes, however, that your original claim was filed within the three-year limitation period.
Steps to take to protect your hurricane insurance claim
If a hurricane causes damage to your property, the following steps will help you preserve your rights:
- Document the damages: Take photographs and videos to document the damage caused to your property.
- Document personal property: Take photos and videos of personal property damaged by the storm. Locate the inventory you prepared in preparation for the storm. If you did not prepare an inventory, make a list of all items. Include personal property and serial numbers, model numbers, and the acquisition cost of the items.
- Notify your insurance company: Call your insurance company as soon after the damage as possible. You can then follow it with written notice. Obtain the name of the person to whom you report the loss and the claim number assigned to your file.
It may take a while for insurance companies to arrange to have an adjuster contact you and arrange to inspect the damage to your property. In the meantime, continue to collect invoices and receipts to prove the value of property damaged by the storm.
Contact a Tampa hurricane insurance claim attorney
A Tampa hurricane insurance claim attorney can be a valuable source of legal advice and guidance when you suffer property damage in a hurricane. An attorney ensures that all steps necessary to protect your rights to be compensated for your loss are taken. Contact KFB Law for a free consultation today.