Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Navigating Hurricane Irma insurance claims

Navigating Hurricane Irma insurance claims

With Hurricane Irma finally gone, Floridians are left with the sometimes daunting and exhausting task of cleanup.   If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of Florida residents who sustained property damage during Irma, you are going to have to file an insurance claim to help cover repairs.

So how do you get started?  Who do you call? How do you make sure you get what you are owed from your insurance company? How do you avoid being the victim of a scam?

First, and foremost, DO NOT SIGN ANY CONTRACT FOR REPAIRS WITH ANYONE WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF YOUR INSURER.  In recent months leading up to Irma, Florida has been plagued by what has been termed “assignment of benefit abuse”.  This occurs when an insured signs over, or “assigns”, its rights under an insurance policy to a 3rd party vendor.  In such instances, policy holders no longer have the right to insurance payments.  Instead, those rights belong to the contractor.  The problem has become so pervasive Florida’s Chief Financial Officer has recognized that assignment of benefit abuse is driving up the cost of insurance of every sector in the State of Florida, and it seems likely the Florida legislature will soon be addressing the issue.

That having been said, here are some tips to make filing damage claims as simple as possible:

1.    Locate all insurance policies. This may include a homeowners’ policy, flood policy, umbrella policy boat policy or and an automobile policy.

2.    Make an inventory of all damaged property.  Either in writing or better yet, take photos or shoot video footage before attempting any repairs.
3.    Protect your property any further damage.  You have an obligation to the insurer to take reasonable steps to prevent further damage.
4.    Report your claim as soon as possible.  Believe it or not, many insurers handle hurricane claims on a first come, first served basis.

5.    After you file the claim, be sure to write down your claim number. You will need it every time you speak to the insurer or an adjustor.

6.    Keep ALL your receipts. Whether it be for emergency expenses to secure your property or any living expenses.

7.    Ask your adjuster if he is an employee of the insurer or an independent adjuster. Many times independent adjusters aren’t authorized to make claim decisions so you will also need to get the name of the in-house adjuster handling your file.

8.    Document each and every contact with your insurer.  This may come in very handy down the road if the actions by the insurance company give rise to an claim against them for bad faith.

9.    Never accept the Insurer's First Offer.  Everything is negotiable.

10. Never take the adjuster's word on anything.  You can request a second opinion and importantly, you probably have the right to mediation and/or an appraisal under your policy.

11. Stay On Top of Your Claim.  Generally speaking, insurance companies do delay is commonplace in processing insurance claims. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. 

12. If you need disaster assistance it is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

13.  Be wary of strangers who come to your door claiming to be insurance adjusters or contractors.  If you suspect fraud, contact the Florida Department of Financial Services, or call the Division of Consumer Services Insurance Consumer Helpline at 877-693-5236.

14.  If your insurance company has denied your hurricane damage claim or has failed to pay you a fair amount, contact Guy Yudin & Foster, LLP., or if you prefer, call 772.286.7372 right away.  Our Florida insurance claim attorneys can help walk you through the process from day one ensuring your rights and interests are protected every step of the way.