When bad weather strikes, one comfort you should be able to count on is your insurance covering whatever damage you experience. For those of us in Florida, that bad weather can often refer to hurricane season. But, what happens when your insurance company does not want to follow your policy in a timely manner? The Tampa Bay Times recently reported that there are more than 15,000 property owners who have yet to see have their insurance claims settled for the damage they endured from Hurricane Michael. This storm happened over a year ago, and there are still thousands of first-party insurance claims left open. When it comes to your insurance policies, you pay them monthly in good faith. That good faith should be returned to you promptly when an emergency happens and you actually need to call upon the help you were promised.
What are First-Party Insurance Claims?
First-party insurance claims are the claims you file with your own insurance company. For example, if you have homeowner's insurance and it covers hurricane damage, then you would file a first-party claim when hurricane damage is done to your home. For the victims of Hurricane Michael, they experienced the destruction first-hand and are now trying to get the help they need with the insurance plans they have been paying into. According to the Tampa Bay Times, about 20,000 claims from this storm were closed without any sort of compensation. Victims have experienced delays in claim settlements due to multiple adjusters being sent out to check on the property damage. For some, the best case scenario involves getting underpaid what they are owed.
What are Some Tips for Filing Successful Claims?
- Get Familiar with Your Policy. It's not enough to just have a policy. You should read and understand every portion of your policy to protect yourself against those who wish to manipulate you.
- Document the Condition of Your Property. Do not wait until it's too late to document the condition of your property. Use a camera to take photographs of all your property, to include your home and your vehicles. Be sure to include serial numbers in your photographs, if they are available.
- Prepare for the Bad Weather. Take the necessary precautions to anticipate whatever weather is typical for your region. Taking initiative will pay off later for you.
- Contact Your Insurance Provider. In the event of an emergency with damage, be sure to contact your insurance provider before you move anything around.
- Take Notes and Photos of all Damage. Document as much of the damage as you can.
- Keep Everything, Even if It Seems Damaged. Do not trash anything that seems damaged. Wait until after an adjuster investigates the damage to determine whether or not something cannot be saved.
- Insist on a Thorough Investigation. If you notice an adjuster is cutting corners on his or her job, call them out on it. Make sure they go into all the areas they are meant to investigate.
- Don't Do the Adjuster's Job. As the adjuster is doing his or her job, do not tell this person what you think is wrong with the damage. Let them come to that conclusion on their own.
- Dispute the First Estimate, If Needed. You do not have to accept the first estimate. Argue for a second estimate, if needed. You are your number one advocate.
What Red Flags Should I Look Out For When Filing a Claim?
Insurance companies are businesses first. While they are meant to provide you with help during your time of need, that is unfortunately not always the case. Here are a few red flags to keep an eye out for when you think your insurance company might not have your best interest at heart:
- They try to convince you to not hire an attorney.
- Their arguments against your claim is based on loopholes in the policy.
- Their responses are confusing or unclear when you ask for clarification.
- They undervalue your estimate.
- They pressure you to accept a smaller settlement by threatening to deny your claim.
Your Next Steps in Closing Hurricane Claims
On a larger scale, Florida lawmakers are on the move to improve the hurricane claims process. There has been a law proposed to protect property owners in similar situations as mentioned above, and there has been another law proposed to speed up the claims process entirely. However, until those laws are in full effect, it is up to you to protect yourself during these moments of emergency. If you believe your insurance company is purposely avoiding your open claim due to hurricane damage, contact us today at Keller, Melchiorre, and Walsh. You need a trusted lawyer to gather inventory of your damage, document expenses, and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. Our experienced team is ready to fight for you and get you back on the road to hurricane recovery.