August 24, 2020, Fort Myers, FL: Preparing for a hurricane should begin well before you are in a storm’s path. While hurricane season is from June to November, peak storm time runs from August to late October.
Hurricanes pose serious threat of damage to property. Dealing with issues after an event pose many financial, logistical and psychological challenges such as fighting with your insurance company over fair compensation for your damaged property. A well-prepared owner can help reduce stress and speed claims processing.
Well in advance of a predicted storm, it’s important to review and make sure your property insurance policy is robust enough to fully repair or rebuild in the event of a claim. It’s important to understand what your insurance covers and what it doesn’t. Be sure to review the policy thoroughly and ask questions of your insurance agent, so you can make changes prior to a storm. Keep your policy in a secure place before and after the storm.
After the storm, it’s critical to thoroughly document your damage. At the very first opportunity, start photographing or videotaping every square inch of your property inside and out. Don’t forget the roof! Photograph damage large and seemingly insignificant to your property as well as in and around your property. Missing roof tiles or branches may later be found to have damaged your building. After you have documented the post-storm damage, it’s your duty to do what you can to prevent additional damage to your property.
A common mistake made is what you do with damaged property. Most are inclined to throw it in the trash to be hauled away. STOP! You must make all damaged property available for inspection by your insurance company. In addition, damaged property is evidence of your loss and may be needed to prove your claim or case in court. Once your insurance company pays you for your damaged property, known as salvage, the insurance company becomes the owner of it. Make sure you notify your insurance company in writing of your intent to dispose of any damaged property and give your insurer time to come and inspect it or take possession of it.
You also have a duty to cooperate with your insurer, which could include sworn testimony and providing financial records. Being prepared with documentation of the state of your property before the storm can speed processing of your claim and is helpful if you need to apply for disaster aid.
An attorney experienced with hurricane claims can review your property insurance as well as the information and documentation of your claim and help you determine the best course of action when dealing with your insurance company after a storm.
About the Author
Eve Kasciuszko, an attorney at Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz focuses her practice on estate planning and probate, as well as civil and commercial litigation.