From the outset, it is important to understand that every case of damage from a hurricane has its unique circumstances that must be assessed individually. Assuming you have an insurance policy, your rights and responsibilities with respect to coverage should be specified in your policy. The following are some suggestions for what to address following hurricane damage to your property.
Generally, insurance policies require you to take reasonable steps to reduce the harm to your property. In legal terms, this is known as a “duty to mitigate damages.” The specific mitigation requirements may be outlined in your policy—but often, they are not.
To reduce further damage, you can cover open structures and other openings with a tarp or other material to prevent more leaks. Do not make any permanent or full repairs until your insurance company has had an opportunity to inspect your property.
Review Your Policy.
Review your insurance policy to see if it covers the damage to your property, and how much your insurer would pay for repairs. Many insurance policies exclude damage due to floods or windstorms. Therefore, a separate policy or a special endorsement may be necessary to cover the damage from the hurricane.
Preserve as much evidence as possible. Take pictures, videos, document damage, etc.
If coverage applies, contact your insurance company to file your claim.
Claims following damage from hurricanes can be complex and daunting. It is important to contact skilled hurricane insurance lawyers from the outset of your claim to ensure your rights are not jeopardized. The attorneys at the Cedrick D. Forrest Law Firm are always ready and able to assist you with your hurricane damage claim.
Is Hurricane Damage Covered by My Insurance Policy?
The answer depends on your policy language. Hurricane insurance is not a specific type of policy; therefore, coverage for hurricane damage usually consists of various insurance products (e.g. flood, windstorm).
It is important to note that insurance coverage varies by company and by the policy. Like any other binding contract, the language and any addendums will be critical to determining coverage in the case of hurricane damage.
Generally, standard homeowners policies do not cover flood damage and may require an additional endorsement for windstorm damage.
Texas is particularly prone to floods/windstorms. Generally, homeowners/dwelling insurance policies do not cover damage to your property resulting from a flood or windstorm. You will need separate coverages or endorsements.
If you live in a designated flood zone, your mortgage lender may require you to have flood insurance. Most flood insurance policies cover damage to your home up to a specified limit; you will need additional coverage for personal belongings.
As with a homeowners/dwelling policy, most commercial property policies do not cover damage from flooding and may require separate coverage. The extent of the coverage for hurricane damage to a commercial property is governed by the specific language of your insurance policy.
Generally, there are three levels of commercial property coverage. Each level protects against different causes of damage. They are:
1. Basic form policies.
They usually provide the least coverage. They usually cover damage caused by fire, windstorms, hail, lightning, explosions, smoke, vandalism, sprinkler leakage, aircraft and vehicle collisions, riots and civil commotion, sinkholes, and volcanoes.
2. Broad form policies.
These policies cover damage from common causes like leaks, structural issues, falling objects, and bad weather.
3. Special form policies.
These policies provide the most coverage and usually cover damage from all causes of loss except those specifically excluded under the terms of the policy (i.e. “Exclusions”).
If your business is on the Texas coast or in Harris County on Galveston Bay, your basic commercial policy probably doesn't cover wind damage either. You may need to purchase insurance from a private insurance company or the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA).
What if your business closes due to hurricane damage and you have a loss of business income or had to incur extra expenses to continue operations? You may have a policy that provides coverage for such losses.
A careful review of your policy is necessary to understand your exact coverages. The lawyers at the Cedrick D. Forrest Law Firm can review your insurance policy and identify all coverages that apply to your hurricane damage.
Is it a Good Idea to Hire Public Adjusters for My Hurricane Damage?
Public adjusting is conducted by an independent insurance professional. A policyholder hires a public adjuster to help settle an insurance claim on his or her behalf. Licensed public adjusters can provide an estimate of your claimed property damage and compare it with the carrier's estimate. Public adjusters work solely on behalf of insureds and charge a fee for their services.
However, public adjusters are limited in their ability to represent you. If a public adjuster and your insurance company cannot reach an agreement, legal action may be necessary. Public adjusters cannot file a lawsuit on your behalf but can later demand payment even if a lawyer is necessary to resolve your claim.
Hurricane insurance lawyers can help you preserve evidence, get an accurate estimate of damages, and communicate with your insurer to resolve your claim.
Contact an experienced attorney if you need help filing a claim or if your existing hurricane damage claim has been delayed or denied.
The hurricane insurance lawyers at The Cedrick D. Forrest Law firm are experienced, willing, and ready to advocate on your behalf. We will fight to make sure that your rights are not jeopardized and that you are fully compensated for your damage.
Contact us today for a free consultation with our hurricane insurance lawyers.