If your home or business suffered damage as a result of Hurricane Irma here in Florida, it is important for you to understand your insurance policies and how to pursue a claim if your house is damaged or destroyed. It is too late to change a policy now if it does not cover all the damages you expect to sustain, but you can still hold your insurer responsible for what you are entitled to.
Here are a few important steps to take:
Your attorney will never complain that you took too many photos, but you may hear him or her grouse about not having enough. If it is damaged photograph it. That includes areas of your yard, your home, your vehicle, and your personal property. Photo areas that have suffered damage and areas that aren't damaged so you can show the comparison later.
If your food had to be thrown out of your refrigerator or freezer, take a photo. It is always easier to prove the existence of damaged property, especially items that needed to be discarded, if you have photos of their damaged condition.
Review your insurance policies (yes, there is more than one dealing with property damage)!
Before filing a claim, make sure you understand what is covered by your policy. What types of property is covered by your policy? What causes of damage are included in your policy? Which are excluded? Are you covered for wind damage? What about the insurance policy on your car? The more thoroughly you understand your policies, the better off you will be.
Get professional help before proceeding
After you sustain property damage, you should contact an attorney or other insurance professional immediately, and not one employed by your insurance company. Your insurance company's only interest is profit and many adjusters will try to avoid paying what you deserve. An insurance attorney can help you through the claims process to hold the company accountable.
You have certain obligations under your insurance policy, and your insurance company will try to negate or diminish your claim if you don't take the actions required by your insurer. So not only is it important to act quickly after your home has been damaged, but to ensure you are meeting your obligations set forth in your insurance policy.
Avoid making repairs before inspection by the insurer, if possible
In many instances, until you have reached a settlement with your insurer, it is wise to hold off on repairs. Your insurer and your attorney and repair/remediation professionals will need to inspect the damage to properly estimate the cost and to determine what coverages to which you are entitled. If circumstances require you to make any repairs prior to the inspection, first take photos from every possible angle, and keep all receipts and records of repair costs.
If you have to throw property away, your carrier will want to inspect it. If you have to discard it before it is inspected, take photos of everything.
You have paid for your insurance. You deserve the correct coverage and valuation when your property is damaged. After a hurricane or any type of storm, ask a qualified attorney to defend your rights against insurance companies that do not have your interests at heart.