The vast majority of hurricanes make landfall in the U.S. during the months of August and September, causing millions of dollars in damages and instigating thousands of insurance claims—many of which will be denied, delayed, or underpaid.
The damages that homeowners endure as a result of hurricanes are too often made worse by recalcitrant insurance companies that use every tactic at their disposal to deny, delay, or underpay their insureds for damages.
This blog presents some facts about the nature and frequency of hurricanes, as well as some important reasons why you should hire a hurricane lawyer as soon as you can after a storm. FAQs include:
When do most hurricanes happen?
Which U.S. states experience the most hurricanes?
What is a “named” storm?
What do the different hurricane categories mean?
What kind of damage do hurricanes cause?
What are typical problems with insurance companies after a hurricane?
What if you are told you are not covered for damage caused by a hurricane?
What if you are asked for “credible evidence” of damages?
What if your insurance company tries to underpay for damages?
Are insurance-company pricing guidelines fair?
What is a damage exclusion?
What is an anti-concurrent causation clause?
What can be done about a denied hurricane insurance claim?
How much does it cost to dispute a denied insurance claim?
1. When do most hurricanes happen?
The Atlantic hurricane season is the six-month period between June 1 and November 30. This is when warmed water and air can rapidly rise to collide with masses of cooler air, resulting in violent storms in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Based on 29 years of data collected between 1991 to 2020, we should expect an average of 14 “named” storms, seven Category 1 or 2 hurricanes, and three of the exquisitely powerful Category 3, 4, or 5 variety, most happening in August or September (see source).
2. Which U.S. states experience the most hurricanes?
Since the inception of the Saffir-Simpson Scale in 1851, Florida has experienced 120 hurricanes, more than any other U.S. State. To place that in perspective, consider that Texas has had the second most with virtually half that amount; and over 41 percent of the 292 hurricanes that have hit the U.S. since 1851 have also struck Florida.
As to severity, Mississippi is first, as 42 percent of hurricanes that have occurred there since 1851 have been Category 4 or higher. Florida is second at 31 percent, barely edging out Texas, where 30 percent of hurricanes are category 4 or higher.
The following table lists the top ten states for hurricane landfalls (see source).
3. What is a “named” storm?
Tropical storms are named if they have a rotating circulation pattern with wind speeds between 39 and 74 MPH. A tropical storm is called a hurricane when wind speeds are at or above 75 MPH.
There are six rotating lists of names for hurricanes originating in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico, which means a name used in 2022 will come up again in 2028.
However, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) retires the names of extremely destructive hurricanes for historical and legal reasons, as well as for cultural sensitivity. For example, the name Katrina was retired following the devastation it caused to New Orleans in 2005 (see source).
4. What do the different hurricane categories mean?
The Saffir-Simpson Scale categorizes hurricanes by their wind velocities and has been referenced to describe hurricanes since 1851—more than 160 years. These wind-speed categories are:
5. What kind of damage do hurricanes cause?
According to the National Hurricane Center:
Category 1. Very dangerous winds will produce some damage to the roof, shingles, vinyl siding, and gutters. Large branches will snap. Trees with shallow roots might topple. Likely extensive damage to power lines and poles. Expect power outages that could last a few to several days.
Category 2. Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage to the roof and siding. Many trees with shallow roots trees will snap or fall, blocking numerous roads. Expect near-total power loss that can last from several days to weeks.
Category 3. Devastating damage will occur. Expect damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will snap or fall to obstruct numerous roads. Water and electricity will probably be unavailable for several days or weeks.
Category 4. Expect catastrophic damage to homes, with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will snap or fall, as will utility poles, blocking roads and possibly isolating residential areas, which will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Category 5. Catastrophic damage, including a high percentage of totally-destroyed homes. Downed trees and utility poles will isolate residential areas. Most of the area will not be habitable for weeks or months.
6. What are typical problems with insurance companies after a hurricane?
Along with woefully inadequate repair estimates and settlement offers, frequent complaints have to do with delays.
The insurance company might tell you that their adjusters are swamped after the storm and just cannot get to you. Or they might have “rotating adjusters” look at your damages, one who might allow a claim where another does not. As a consequence of these missing and/or rotating adjusters, you might have incomplete and/or conflicting information about what is covered by your policy and what is not (source).
Remember: You are at a decided disadvantage if you try to negotiate with an uncooperative insurance company while simultaneously coping with the trauma of severe storm damage to your home and possessions. Insurance adjusters are motivated by their employers to pay you as little as possible for the damages you have sustained, and they are experts at getting you to do or say things that will diminish the quality of your claim. You need a hurricane attorney.
7. What if you are told you are not covered for hurricane damage?
Homeowners often hear “you’re not covered” from insurance company adjusters after a hurricane, which might be true for many claims, but not for all. The case of floodwaters (aka “flood insurance”) is a prime example.
Most homeowner insurance policies do not cover floodwater damage, which typically requires a separate policy. But “floodwaters” are those that rise from the bottom up, like from the overflow of a pond or lake, or from a storm surge.
On the other hand, damage that comes from wind-driven rain is covered by homeowner insurance, which are waters that enter your home through storm openings in the roof, windows, doors, or storm-caused holes in the walls. So, you need to make sure that you and the insurance adjuster are talking about the same thing. (N.B. Your deductible for wind-driven rain might be higher than for other insured causes of damage.)
8. What if you are asked for “credible evidence” of damages?
There are various forms of credible evidence to document damages. Paperwork such as receipts, invoices, photos, estimates, and local newspaper articles can help you prove the loss. Of course, snapshots of the damage make excellent evidence, and even more so if you can present them next to photos of how your property appeared before the storm.
Photos of damages should be taken from different perspectives. Make sure you take pictures of damages before making temporary repairs, such as putting up tarps or nailing plywood over shattered windows. Insurers usually want you to make such repairs ASAP to prevent further damage, but be mindful that such repairs can obscure the extent of the damage.
Remember that insisting on “before-photos” when you have none is a stalling tactic that can be used by insurance companies, complicating your life when you are already stressed, and making you want to “settle” and be done with it. However, insurance tactics tend to subside remarkably once you hire a qualified hurricane lawyer—someone who is on your side.
9. What if your insurance company wants to underpay for damages?
Most insurance companies will allow you to ask for a second opinion if you disagree with the estimate of your property’s worth and losses.
You can also ask your insurance company to re-examine the claim. But be mindful of the timeframe for appeals, and be prepared to provide descriptions of all the facts and documents you have collected to support your argument.
A qualified hurricane attorney is an invaluable asset when asking an insurance company to re-examine a claim. Remember: insurance company claim adjusters do not work for you, and they look after their employer’s corporate profits by trying to pay you as little as possible for your claim.
10. Are insurance-company pricing guidelines fair?
Insurance company “pricing guidelines” are estimates of what it will cost to repair or replace your property under normal conditions. But the aftermath of a disaster is anything but normal. Given the realities of supply and demand, the cost of labor and materials skyrockets in the aftermath of a hurricane that has damaged a neighborhood, town, or city.
You should expect your insurance company to compensate you for the actual cost of your insured damages (up to your policy limits), not just what was predicted before the hurricane ever made landfall.
For example, if your insurance company is pricing a new roof at $250 per square foot, but the market price is $350, you should demand the difference, including whatever the insurance company “held back” due to ACV rules. Here again, you would do well to retain the services of a qualified hurricane lawyer.
Also, remember that it is not fair (and could be considered bad faith) for your insurance company to delay settling with you in the hope that prices will normalize—and they can get off more cheaply.
11. What is a damage exclusion?
An exclusion disallows coverage for certain kinds of damages. E.g. some homeowner policies specifically exclude “high wind” damage. If you knowingly purchased a homeowner policy that has such an exclusion, your insurance company is completely within its rights to enforce it. But if you live near a coast, and the insurance agent hid a high-wind exclusion in small print without calling your attention to it, there is a reasonable chance that it is an “unenforceable exclusion,” and an experienced hurricane lawyer can aggressively make that case for you.
12. What is an anti-concurrent causation clause?
Insurance companies are adept at limiting their payouts after a natural disaster, and one way they do it is with something called an anti-concurrent causation clause, which is typically buried in the fine print of homeowner policies.
An anti-concurrent causation clause states that your insurance company will not pay for a covered event that happens simultaneously with a noncovered one. For example, the company will not pay for wind damage (which is covered) if it occurs at the same time as one that is not covered (e.g. floodwaters; see 7).
A qualified hurricane attorney will know ways to negotiate or disprove your qualification for an anti-concurrent causation clause. In fact, exclusion clauses are illegal in some states. So it is crucial that you have help dealing with your insurance company, proceeding as cautiously and strategically as you can.
13. What can be done about a denied hurricane insurance claim?
If you have filed a claim for damages and it has been denied, simply calling your insurance company, and trying to persuade them otherwise puts you in a poor negotiating position.
Remember, no matter how friendly, sympathetic, and congenial one might seem to you, insurance claim adjusters are rewarded for saving money on behalf of their employers. They simply are not on your side.
At Galindo Law, we have skilled attorneys who concentrate on assisting people with underpaid, delayed, or denied hurricane damage issues. They will defend the integrity of your damage claim and negotiate with insurance companies to get you the settlement you need and deserve.
14. How much does it cost to dispute a denied insurance claim?
Galindo Law does not charge any upfront or out-of-pocket fees. We are only paid a percentage of the settlement we are able to secure for you. So by working with Galindo Law, you incur zero financial risk.
Remember: You are not asking for charity. You have paid to be insured. You deserve to be adequately compensated for your covered hurricane damage losses.
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