Prepare for Hurricane Season with a Review of Your Insurance Policy

Prepare for Hurricane Season with a Review of Your Insurance Policy

Susan R.  Miller
 | 
The 2021 hurricane season kicks off on June 1 and technically runs through Nov. 30. But in recent years, we have seen storms arriving earlier than June and forming long after the official season has ended.
 
Last year was a prime example. Tropical Storm Arthur formed in May off the U.S. East Coast. It was the first of 30 different named storms, 14 of which became hurricanes. The last storm, Iota, formed Nov. 13, reaching Category 5 intensity.
 
May 9-15 is Hurricane Preparedness Week and if you live in a storm prone area, now is the time to start getting ready. But hurricane preparedness is more than just making sure you have enough water, non-perishable foods and batteries stockpiled.
 
Part of being prepared is knowing what your homeowner’s insurance policy covers, and more importantly what it does not cover. Now is the time to read through it. Oftentimes, the language can be confusing.
 
There are some questions you need answered:
 
·      Does your policy have exclusions, limitations?
·      Do you know what they are?
·      Does your policy cover replacement cost or actual cash value, which can be a lot lower given that there may be depreciation?
·      What is your deductible, or the amount of money you must pay out of pocket before insurance kicks in? Many policies have a much higher deductible for storm-related damage.
·      If your home becomes uninhabitable does your policy cover short-term lodging, and for how long?
·      How long do you have to file a claim?
 
If you don’t know the answer to these questions, or others, consult with an attorney who can make sure that you have the best coverage available for your situation.
 
Did you know that your homeowner’s insurance policy may cover a flood if the water comes from a broken pipe in your home? But if your home floods due to rising waters from a storm surge, then you likely will need a flood policy to cover that damage.
 
What happens if during a storm a tree falls on your roof, causing extensive damage to your home? You may file a claim, only to find your insurance company denying payment because you should have known the tree was diseased or weakened in some way. Or the insurance company may deny a claim because your roof was over a certain age or had pre-existing damage and you should have done more to make sure it was in good shape before a hurricane hit.
 
Whatever the reason for a denial, the insurance company must provide you with that information in writing.
 
It’s a good idea to properly document any damage with photos. Each year, take photos of the outside and inside of your home, room-by-room before a storm hits. That way you can show an insurance company that your property was in good shape before disaster struck and properly document any losses. This can be used to help you or your attorney in fighting a denied claim.
 
Insurance companies are rarely eager to pay out claims. Often you will need to contact an attorney who focuses his or her practice on disaster recovery. They will be able to help you determine if the insurance company is acting in bad faith in denying the claim. If the insurance company agrees to pay an amount that seems far too low, then the attorney can assist you in obtaining a more fair and equitable settlement. Many times, insurance companies drag their feet in paying claims, this also is where an attorney can assist.
 
The amount of time insurance companies have to pay or deny a claim can vary from state to state. Some states only require insurers to pay in a “reasonable amount of time,” but do not specify what “reasonable” means. Others are more specific. In Florida, for example, insurance companies have 90 days to either pay or deny a claim.
 
The 2021 hurricane season promises to be an active one with forecasters predicting 17 named storms, eight hurricanes, three of which will be Category 3 or higher.
 
Dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane is stressful enough. Why not be prepared ahead of time by having a qualified attorney review your policy. And, if your home suffers damage from a storm, let a qualified attorney assist you in receiving the compensation to which you are entitled.
 

This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
 
 
 
Susan R.  Miller

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