For about 11 years, I served as an insurance defense attorney litigating catastrophic property losses mostly caused by hurricane.
Here is some advice and things to remember from someone that was somewhat of an “attorney insurance insider” for years:
1. Insurance companies are not the devil. They will help you as much as possible. But you need to a) be reasonable; and b) prove your losses to help your claim go through. I have worked with amazing people that are insurance adjusters. They want to close out your claim ASAP and help the next person. Anything you can do to make it easier for them to adjust your losses will only help you. They need to make decisions based on the evidence. They need to, so to speak “CYA,” before they give you money. They need to justify payments they make to you so do your job and help them with that justification!
2. Before the storm:
Document all. Gather receipts. Make videos of the interior and exterior of your house. Take photos. Try to mitigate and lessen your damages. Even if you have insurance, don’t just sit back and assume you are covered for all. Protect your stuff, including your contents and house from damage.
3. After the storm:
File a timely insurance claim or notice of a loss. Do not wait–there are time restrictions under Florida law but also in your policy. They need to know about your claim ASAP. They will have field adjusters coming out to inspect as soon as they can. If you document things well and your claim is not over the top, maybe you will get paid with no inspection–I don’t know. It all depends on how many adjusters they have and how widespread the damages are in our state. Easy claims will get paid fast. Well-documented claims should get paid if they are covered.
4. The worst thing you can do is put unreasonably high prices on your items, or make your scope of damages unreasonable. That just delays things. They will look through your inventory one by one and also decide a price for it. If you have replacement cost on your policy then you should get that. Otherwise you will get actual cash value. Read your policy and know what it says but remember that insurance does not cover EVERYTHING. (Look at what contents are covered, what type of damage, hurricane deductibles, storm surge vs flood, water damage, mold, etc.) Being unreasonable just hurts you. Yes, you want them to be fair and you deserve to get what you are entitled to but no more. Insurance money is not a windfall and should not leave you better off than before the hurricane.
5. Be very careful before hiring a public adjuster!! They will get a percentage of any money coming to you. Many times these adjusters have such a bad rep that the claim is delayed because the company knows they have a reputation of inflating claims. Most times, they just make things worse. I would be very wary of any public adjuster, especially one that comes knocking on your door telling you to file a claim. Your insurance company will send an adjuster but you need to ask a lot of questions and try to point out the damage as best as you can. They are busy people with a lot of claims to adjust. Maybe you have a contractor or roofer as a friend. Ask them for advice if you can. DO NOT ASSIGN YOUR RIGHTS TO AN INSURANCE CLAIM TO ANYONE. Some companies tell you that they will handle it all and file on your behalf. That smells like FRAUD. Avoid it. In fact, tell your insurance company that a public adjuster or another company is trying to help you and maybe the company will help you even more as you avoided a very costly mess.
6. Remember that anything you say in the claim may affect your coverage. That thought scares people. But if you are a fair person that only wants what you are entitled to, you should be OK. If you are hoping this is your chance to get a full house remodel, then I can’t help you. Yes, there are many attorneys that will try to coach you into saying what you need to say for coverage. I have seen it myself countless times and the person being deposed just looks like a big fat liar. Don’t let anyone coach you into committing insurance fraud. You are the person that entered into the insurance contract and you are the one that can be charged with fraud. You are in charge. Don’t let anyone pressure you to do the wrong thing.
7. Have patience. You may need to move out, move into a hotel, etc. There will be a shortage of materials and repairmen if we get hit. Just do the best you can but do not expect a miracle. Lots of claims will be filed and the resources will be strapped. So again, mitigate your losses as best as you can. Document all calls to the insurance company with a phone log, or make copies of all letters. Call the adjuster often to let them know you need help and ask how you can help them. Get on their good side and help out. Being kind and helpful will only make things a bit easier for you. If you feel that you are not going anywhere or you are not being treated fairly, then call an attorney to help you. I would call an attorney over a public adjuster for sure. If you want advice on who I think are reputable attorneys, please message me. If it is a small issue here and there, I am happy to help you make calls or send letters. Although you must have patience, an insurance company also must adjust claims in a timely manner. If you are dealing with your claim through your insurance agent, make sure they are doing their job. Ask for logs and copies of letters.
Good luck and stay safe!