After a natural disaster such as a hurricane, it is natural to believe that everything will be fine because you purchased adequate coverage, have faithfully paid your premiums, and only want what is fair from your insurance company. Unfortunately, the reality is often different.
Typically, first-time victims of a hurricane do not know how to determine the full extent of their losses; nor do they adequately understand their rights under the law.
This blog entry is about how a hurricane attorney can help you if your insurance claim has been denied or delayed, or if you have been offered less money than you need to repair the damages to your home and property. Q&As include:
Why would you need a hurricane lawyer?
What hurricane damage does a homeowner policy cover?
What hurricane damages are excluded from a typical homeowner policy?
What are hidden hurricane damages?
What are the most frequent complaints about hurricane insurance claims?
What if your insurance company wants to underpay for damages?
What is “bad faith” on the part of an insurance company?
What if you are asked for “credible evidence” of hurricane damage?
What is an anti-concurrent causation clause?
What can you do about a denied hurricane insurance claim?
How much does it cost to dispute a denied insurance claim?
1. Why would you need a hurricane lawyer?
If you set about arguing with an insurance company about a denied or delayed insurance claim (or inadequate settlement offer) without the benefit of legal counsel, the odds that you will prevail are dim. In sum, you will likely end up with a smaller award than you will need to compensate you completely and fairly for your losses and/or injuries.
This is for at least three reasons:
Regardless of how friendly, congenial, and sympathetic one might sound, insurance company “claim adjusters” are decidedly not there to protect your interests. Instead, they are motivated by their employers—the insurance companies—to pay you as little as they can get away with. If you are not a hurricane attorney yourself, and thereby unfamiliar with the laws concerning hurricane insurance claims and the tactics used by insurance claim adjusters, you are working at a colossal disadvantage.
As most folks, you probably believe that others in the world would feel and act the same way you do in a given circumstance. You think, “I would never try to weasel a person out of something that is rightfully hers, especially after she has suffered a disaster.” And so you imagine that the seemingly friendly, congenial, and sympathetic claim adjuster would be similarly disinclined. The historical record shows: this is a very bad assumption.
If your house and property are damaged or destroyed and your life is in turmoil, you might be tempted to think that you should acquiesce to the insurance company and just “move on” and “not argue.” This is self-defeating, exactly what the insurance company is hoping you will do, and another major reason why you should not try to handle a hurricane insurance claim without a hurricane lawyer.
2. What hurricane damage does a homeowner policy cover?
Recoverable damages typically include but are not limited to:
Broken windows and glass doors
Damaged or destroyed decks and sunrooms
Damaged or destroyed landscaping, trees, and shrubs
Damaged or destroyed roofs
Damaged or destroyed swimming pools, detached garages, and outbuildings
Damages from loss of utilities (e.g. gas, electric, and water)
Flooding and water damage
Foundation and structural damage to houses and buildings
Lost, damaged, or destroyed personal property
Be aware that there is a lot of vague wording and legalese in insurance contracts, and not surprisingly, many claims adjusters read their policies with a bias that is adverse to your interests and excessively favorable to their employer: the insurance company. This speaks to the advisability of having a hurricane lawyer review all printed materials related to your homeowner policy.
For example, you might be dealing with more than one adjuster after a hurricane, and one might allow coverage for a certain kind of damage where another one from the same company wants to disallow it, interpreting any vague wording to his or her employer’s advantage: something the adjuster would not likely try if a hurricane claim attorney is monitoring the situation on your behalf.
By way of his or her experience, your hurricane attorney will also be attuned to any paperwork discrepancies, which would probably escape your notice. E.g., how those glossy brochures given to you when you bought the policy might include language that demonstrates the company inferred more benefits than they are willing to pay now.
3. What hurricane damages are excluded from a typical homeowner policy?
Your hurricane claim lawyer will help you understand the nuances of your homeowner policy. Additionally, he or she will advise: never simply accept an insurance adjuster’s pronouncement that “you’re not covered” for something. Consider the frequent case of floodwaters (aka “flood insurance”).
“Floodwaters” are those that rise from the bottom up, like from the overflow of a pond or lake, or from a storm surge. And it is true that most homeowner insurance policies do not cover floodwater damage; such protection typically requires a separate policy, and so arguing with an insurance adjuster will not get you very far. However…
Water damage that comes from wind-driven rain most definitely is covered by homeowner insurance. So are waters that enter your home by way of roofs, windows, doors, or walls that were damaged by a hurricane. So you need to be doubly sure that you and the insurance adjuster are talking about the same thing.
Also, remember that claims adjusters are disinclined to help you sort one kind of damage from another so that you can get paid. In fact, quite the opposite, which is yet another reason that you would do well to have a skilled hurricane lawyer overseeing your claim process.
4. What are hidden hurricane damages?
Hidden hurricane damage can be more destructive to your home than the kind that is easily seen—and typically overlooked and underpaid by insurance company claims adjusters: something your hurricane lawyer will help you with. Typical hidden damages include:
Compromised exterior walls
Concealed damage to decks or porches
Contaminated water supply
5. What are the most frequent complaints about hurricane insurance claims?
The most common complaints are about delays, which hurricane victims have been known to call “the second nightmare” after a destructive storm. These delays abet the psychological trauma you are experiencing, setting you up for “just wanting to settle and get it over with,” and together are another reason you need to hire a hurricane attorney and not go it alone. Among these complaints:
The insurance company might not have enough claim adjusters. So after a hurricane, it takes them a long time to send you one.
There might be more than one adjuster, and one might okay something while another does not.
Because of (a) and (b), you have missing and/or conflicting information about what is covered by your insurance policy.
Other frequent complaints involve lowball offers for repairs or settlements that add insult to injury, especially if this is an insurance company to which you have been faithfully paying premiums for decades, on time, and without ever questioning each rate hike.
6. What if your insurance company wants to underpay for damages?
If you disagree with the estimate of your property’s worth and losses, you can ask your insurance company to re-examine the claim. But often, it is better to request a second opinion from an independent source; and your hurricane attorney can connect you with a professional called a “public adjuster.”
Similar in concept to a certified public accountant (CPA), a public adjuster is an individual licensed (usually by the state) as a lawful fiduciary entrusted to represent your rights during a homeowner insurance claim.
Typically, like your hurricane attorney, a public adjuster is paid a percentage of your total claim settlement. Thereby, the interests of your public claim adjuster dovetail completely with yours.
7. What is “bad faith” on the part of an insurance company?
“Bad faith” is an egregious tactic on the part of some unscrupulous insurance companies against which you would likely be helpless without the help and experience of a hurricane attorney.
It is any attempt by an insurance company to renege on its promises, either by refusing to pay your legitimate claim or by delaying the process to wear you down, especially when you are emotionally weakened and vulnerable in the aftermath of a natural disaster such as a hurricane (source).
An insurance company might also be acting in bad faith if it misrepresents contract language to avoid paying a claim if it does not disclose policy limitations and exclusions before you purchase the policy, or if it makes unreasonable demands for a proof-of-loss.
8. What if you are asked for “credible evidence” of hurricane damage?
Most requests for proof of loss are often totally legitimate. In such cases, the best credible evidence of hurricane damage is before-and-after photography.
After-photos should show your hurricane damage from various angles. Make sure you take snapshots of damage before you make temporary repairs, which insurers usually want you to do ASAP to prevent further damage. (E.g., putting up tarps or nailing plywood over shattered windows).
Before-photos can strengthen your claim. These are snapshots of your property that you might have incidentally taken before the hurricane and that can now be compared against those taken afterward. But remember that any insistence about “before photos” on the part of an insurance company can be a bogus issue raised to delay the process and wear you down.
Also be sure to keep any paperwork that will help you prove the loss (e.g., receipts, estimates, local news articles, etc.).
An unscrupulous insurance company can delay your hurricane damage claim indefinitely by making unwarranted requests for information. For example, the company might demand proof‑of-losses unrelated to your insurance policy, or they might not perform a thorough investigation before making demands for proof.
Such insurance companies do these things on the chance bet that you will weary of their bogus requests and give up seeking complete and fair compensation: a scheme to which you are vulnerable in the aftershock of a natural disaster. A hurricane attorney will call out such insurance-company tactics for legal scrutiny and fight back against them.
9. What is an anti-concurrent causation clause?
Insurance companies want to limit their payouts after a hurricane, and the chief way they try to do so is with something called an anti-concurrent causation clause, which is common to homeowner policies, although usually hidden in the fine print.
An anti-concurrent causation clause specifies that the insurance company will not pay for a covered event that happens simultaneously to a noncovered one. For example, the insurance 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).
There are ways to negotiate or disprove your qualification for the exclusion clause. And exclusion clauses are illegal in some states: yet another reason that you should retain the services of a hurricane lawyer.
10. What can you do 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 change their mind probably is not going to work for you. Recall that a tacit part of the job for claims adjusters is saving money for their company, and they are consequently experts at getting you to say things that will weaken your claim.
At Galindo Law, we have experienced attorneys who specialize in assisting people with denied hurricane-damage claim issues. We will protect and defend the integrity of your damage claim and negotiate with insurance companies to get you the settlement you need and deserve.
11. How much does it cost to dispute a denied hurricane 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.
And thank you for reading our blog!