Homeowners’ insurance is never fun to deal with, especially when you find yourself with property damage. It disrupts your already busy life with filling out forms, dealing with an agent or adjuster, possibly being displaced from your home for a time, and waiting for claims to be paid so you can start the process of repairs. It’s a long, draining process than can leave you feeling beaten.
For people living in the Gulf Coast, hurricanes causing wind and water damage to property is a “when,” not an “if.” Some hurricanes are worse than others, but if you have lived in the Southeast, you know the drill – especially if you have mandatory evacuations. You board up the house, secure anything outside that isn’t nailed down, grab important papers and valuables, pack medications and clothing, load the family and pets into the car, and get out of dodge. Typically, the first thing you do after being cleared to return home is assess the damage to your property and begin the insurance claims process.
Many people who finally get through the claims process find additional damage later on that just was not noticeable at first. If this occurs, you may be able to file something called a supplemental insurance claim. Supplemental claims are supposed to provide you with additional money to make the repairs that were not discovered prior to settling your initial claim, and the damage must be related to the same event that triggered your initial claim. Supplemental claims can be for damage to your home or destruction of personal property covered under your policy. This process does not always go smoothly because the goal of the insurance companies is to make money, so they look for policy exclusions to limit their loss.
Under Florida Statutes 627.70132, residents who find additional damage after their original insurance claim has been settled must notify their carrier of further damage “within 3 years after the hurricane first made landfall or the windstorm caused the covered damage.” This sounds like a lot of time to most people, but when you stop to think about the number of claims made after an event such as Hurricane Michael, three years can flash by in the blink of an eye. By the time an insurance adjuster is assigned to your file, he/she assess your damage, the claim is paid, and the repairs are made, you are racing a clock that you didn’t even know was running to have the newfound damage covered.
If you find yourself getting the runaround, you may need legal help to negotiate with your insurance claims agent, and to make sure the process is not being stalled. If you live in a region prone to natural disasters, such as hurricanes, it may be a particularly good idea to consult with an attorney about the terms of your policy. You also want to be sure that you have the proper coverage that provides for a supplemental claim to be made, and that you understand any terms that may create a risk that your policy would not pay out when the time comes.
Keep a detailed inventory of personal property
Because you have so much on your mind, it is very likely that damaged personal property can be overlooked, or simply not be used often so you did not know that it was broken right away. Maintaining a home inventory list can be invaluable if the need ever arises. There are a few ways to accomplish this daunting task. You can make a video of all of your belongings, create an electronic log, or keep a written inventory. Be sure to include a description, purchase date, value, and any serial numbers. Other tips for creating your home inventory include:
- Keeping receipts for higher dollar items for which determining the replacement value of will be difficult without proof.
- Obtaining appraisals for hard to value items such as fine jewelry, artwork and family heirlooms.
- Choose one area at a time to focus on record
- Include a record of recent purchases.
- List each clothing type and quantity of each you own.
- Include items stored in your basement, attic, garage, and storage units.
Having sufficient coverage and understanding your options is important to being able to repair your home, replace your belongings, and get on with your life.
If your home has been damaged in a hurricane or other natural disaster, and you believe you need help maneuvering through the insurance claims process, contact the insurance dispute attorneys of Warhurst Law. We proudly serve Alabama, Florida, and the entire Guly Coast and Panhandle regions. To schedule a free case evaluation call our office in Mobile at 251-207-1296.