Hidden hurricane damage (damage caused by a hurricane that you do not see) can be more destructive to your home than the kind that is easily seen—and typically overlooked and underpaid by insurance company claim adjusters…
Hurricanes characteristically evoke TV-ready images of high winds propelling airborne debris into houses, smashing doors and windows, battering siding, and even tearing off roofs—all of it accompanied by flooding, downed trees, and severed power lines.
But there is a quieter side to hurricane damage: the kind you cannot necessarily see, which insurance claim inspectors typically overlook, and that insurance companies too often drag their feet paying for -- all reasons why you should consider hiring a hurricane lawyer.
This blog entry uses an FAQ format to provide examples of hidden hurricane damage, as well as the information you need to combat the lowball tactics insurance companies use to delay, limit, or deny payment for your hurricane losses. Among these FAQs:
What kind of hidden hurricane damage is a compromised water supply?
How do I know if my water supply has been contaminated after a hurricane?
What kind of hidden hurricane damage is ceiling mold?
How do I know if my house has ceiling mold after a hurricane?
What kind of hidden hurricane damage is a compromised exterior wall?
How do I know if my house has a compromised exterior wall after a hurricane?
What kind of hidden hurricane damage do decks and porches sustain?
How do I know if my deck or porch has sustained hidden hurricane damage?
What kind of hidden hurricane damage can windows sustain?
How do I know if my windows have sustained hidden hurricane damage?
What kind of electrical damage can hurricanes cause?
How do I know what kind of hurricane electrical damage my house has sustained?
What kind of hidden hurricane damage can a foundation incur?
How do I know if my home has hidden hurricane damage to its foundation?
What proof of hidden hurricane damage should I have?
What if my insurance company wants to underpay me for damages?
How much does it cost to hire a hurricane lawyer?
1. What kind of hidden hurricane damage is a compromised water supply?
Hurricanes can contaminate your water supply whether you draw water from a well or a municipal water supply. This is because hurricanes bring tremendous amounts of rain, the runoff from which might contain animal waste, and the risk of E. coli. There are also oil, gas, and other chemical pollutants in runoff that can be toxic or otherwise hazardous.
If your well has been inundated with rain runoff or tidal-surge flooding, it will have to be professionally evaluated and remediated before you can safely use its water for drinking and cooking. If your water comes from a municipal water supply, treatment plants might not be operational after a hurricane, and storm damage and flooding might have tainted the water mains.
In both cases, you might have suffered monetary damages for which you should be compensated. (E.g. for remediating your well, and/or having to buy a water purification system to use for some length of time.) Many insurance companies resist, which is why you need a hurricane lawyer.
2. How do I know if my water supply has been contaminated after a hurricane?
After a hurricane, if you get water from a municipal water supply, begin by watching or listening to your local news stations. They will let you know if your tap water is safe, needs to be boiled, or should be completely avoided.
If you have your own well, you should begin by running every faucet and flushing every toilet after a hurricane. Although contaminated water is not visually obvious, you will be looking to see if there is any discoloration of the water. Also, note any unusual odors.
3. What kind of hidden hurricane damage is ceiling mold?
While hurricane winds cause obvious roof damage such as torn shingles and large holes, hurricane rains can cause more insidious destruction. This is because your shingles, once waterlogged, foster a perfect environment for growing molds that migrate into the interior spaces of your home, particularly your ceilings—and mold can make you and your family ill.
Although some people are more sensitive to mold than others, breathing it can cause allergic reactions and respiratory distress. Especially affected are people with chronic allergies, asthma, emphysema; or a compromised immune system due to COVID, chemotherapy, organ transplant, or other conditions and treatments.
It takes effort to detect a mold threat, and insurance companies are prone to ignore or downplay that danger: another reason why you should retain the services of a hurricane attorney.
4. How do I know if my house has ceiling mold after a hurricane?
Outside, you need to climb onto your roof and inspect every shingle. Those that have become dark in color are likely waterlogged, and perfect environments for growing mold. Inside, you must carefully examine your ceilings for water stains, discolorations, and sagging.
If you find mold, resist trying to remove it yourself and painting over it. This can release mold spores throughout your home, worsening the potential for ill health effects. Besides, the mold will show through the paint almost immediately. Instead, you will have to hire a professional mold removal service, which means you need and deserve compensation from your insurance company to cover the cost for doing so: something a hurricane lawyer will help you with.
5. What kind of hidden hurricane damage is a compromised exterior wall?
Exterior walls—the ones holding up your roof—might be seriously damaged even if they appear intact to the naked eye. Hurricane winds, which can exceed 155 MPH, combined with torrential rains can pound the exterior walls of your home until they are significantly weakened.
Such damage, left untreated, might show up later in the form of cracks or bulges, uneven gaps around doors and windows, a sagging and/or leaking roof, crumbling concrete block, and more. Insurance claim inspectors should take these hidden damages into consideration, and are more likely to do so if they know you have retained a hurricane attorney to help you obtain fair and just compensation for your losses.
6. How do I know if my house has a compromised exterior wall after a hurricane?
Even if you do not see any large cracks or holes in an exterior wall, you need to inspect it very carefully. If you see dark spots, discoloration, or spiderweb cracks, there is a good chance that there is hidden damage. Mark these areas with tape. They will require the services of a professional contractor or structural engineer, and you should be reimbursed for costs by your insurance company.
7. What kind of hidden hurricane damage do decks and porches sustain?
Decks and porches that seem to have survived a violent storm unscathed can nonetheless be significantly damaged to the point of having to be replaced. Hurricane rains can be so torrential as to saturate the wood, which weakens and leaves it susceptible to warping and rot.
8. How do I know if my deck or porch has sustained hidden hurricane damage?
Look for wood planks and posts that are drooping, curved, or otherwise warped. This means they are waterlogged and need replacement. Examine all other wood planks and posts for chipped or missing paint. If you can, check the bottoms of planks too.
If you find these sorts of damages, you should have your porch or deck evaluated ASAP by a professional construction contractor to estimate the cost of repairs. This is because the warped planks (and especially the posts) will compromise the overall integrity of the structure in a relatively short period of time—and it can eventually collapse.
Many insurance companies try to ignore or downplay hurricane damages to porches and decks, which is unfair—and is yet another reason why you should seek the help of an experienced hurricane damage attorney.
9. What kind of hidden hurricane damage can windows sustain?
Windows that are not cracked or shattered might nonetheless be significantly damaged. Hurricane winds that batter exterior walls will cause your windows to rattle. The resulting shock and vibration can crack your window seals, allowing air and water to leak through the windows and into interior spaces. In fact, hurricane winds can be strong enough to actually move glass panes in their frames, thereby destroying the insulating properties of expensive double- and triple-pane windows.
10. How do I know if my windows have sustained hidden hurricane damage?
If you see condensation between the panes of your double- or triple-pane windows, they will need to be replaced. Where no such condensation is evident, you should nonetheless check all corners and crevices for cracks or gaps—both inside and outside. If you find such, the window will soon fail by letting in air and water; and condensation will appear between the panes.
11. What kind of electrical damage can hurricanes cause?
Hurricane winds and airborne debris can cause gross damage to your home’s electrical system that is relatively easy to spot. But hurricane rains can cause water damage that is more difficult to diagnose. (N.B. You should never enter a flooded building that still has electricity running to it. The risk of electrocution is high!)
Obviously, if the service drop between the pole and your home is blown down or severed, then there is no electricity to your house to begin with. But if the service drop is intact and some lights and outlets work while others do not, then there is physical damage to some branch circuits in the walls of your home. They are shorted, severed, and/or water damaged.
Be careful. An insurance claim adjuster might see that your service drop has been blown-down or severed and tell you the problem ends there. But after your electricity is restored, you might discover that some lights and outlets work while others do not. I.e., there is physical- and/or water‑damage to some branch circuits in the walls of your home.
12. How do I know what kind of hurricane electrical damage my house has sustained?
If there is electricity to your home and you have dead outlets or inoperative lights, there are a number of things to investigate:
a. First, check your electrical service panel. If no circuit breakers are open (i.e. “blown”), then you likely have severed interior wiring somewhere and need the services of an electrician.
b. If you have open circuit breakers, reset them and see if the affected outlets and lights are restored. If the breakers cannot be reset, the interior wiring might not be severed, but you definitely have one or more short circuits that require the services of an electrician.
c. Check your GFCIs. You will find these specialized outlets near sinks, bathtubs, outdoors, and other wet/damp places. They are recognizable by their test/retest buttons. If one or more is open (“blown”) and you cannot reset it, then you definitely have water infiltration somewhere that is affecting your electrical wiring or equipment.
Note: shorts due to water are the most dangerous kind. A fractional current of only 0.1 amperes for only two seconds can kill you in the damp, but will generally not open a circuit breaker. This is because circuit breakers are only designed to open when their current limits are exceeded. E.g. 20 amps for a 20 amp breaker, or 2000 times more than what can kill you. This is why your house has GCFIs (see source).
A GCFI is designed to open and stop the flow of current when its electronics “sense” that a fractional amount of current is “leaking” to ground, which is a primary indicator of a short due to water. If your GCFIs are “blowing,” you need to contact an electrician ASAP.
Even if your electrical system seems okay, if hurricane waters have infiltrated the interior of your home, you should hire an electrician to conduct a thorough inspection. If the insides of outlets and ceiling fixtures are wet and/or remain damp, corrosion will ensue, lights will flicker, and outlets will eventually fail—all long after the insurance claim adjuster has exited the scene.
A hurricane attorney will help assure such things do not happen.
13. What kind of hidden hurricane damage can a foundation incur?
As the name implies, the foundation supports your entire home, and if it is seriously compromised, the entire structure might be at risk. In sum, foundation damage is the worst kind of storm destruction your home might endure. Foundations are generally made of concrete, which absorbs water, and therefore can warp or crack if it becomes water-logged.
14. How do I know if my home has hidden hurricane damage to its foundation?
Unfortunately, foundation damage can be difficult to see until it becomes severe. This is especially so in the aftermath of a hurricane when the areas around your home might be littered with debris that obstructs your ability to look closely for it.
Start by examining your home’s perimeter, beneath any porches or decks, and (should you have one) inside the crawlspace beneath your home. You will be looking for cracks, flooding, or pooling.
In the case of a crawlspace, you particularly want to know if it had become flooded during the storm (even if the water is gone now). If it is still flooded, do not empty it until it is inspected by the insurance claim adjuster. Take photos too.
15. What proof of hidden hurricane damage should I have?
The most important thing to do when a hurricane is predicted is to take photos of your home before the storm arrives. After the storm, immediately contact your insurance company. Gather photos, videos, receipts, warranties, and any other documentation you have to support your insurance claim. Do this before you begin any restoration.
16. What if my insurance company wants to underpay me for damages?
Remember that in order to enhance profits for their employers, insurance company claim adjusters are incented to pay you as little as possible for your losses, no matter how friendly, sympathetic, and congenial one might seem to you.
If you disagree with the adjuster’s estimate of your home’s worth and the cost of repairs, you need the services of a hurricane lawyer. He or she can help you solicit a second opinion and/or ask the insurance company to re‑examine the claim, advise you about what documentation you need to support your case, and make sure you present such data effectively and within the timeline for appeals.
17. How much does it cost to hire a hurricane lawyer?
Galindo Law does not charge any upfront or out-of-pocket fees. We are only paid a percentage of the hurricane damage settlement we are able to secure for you. So by working with Galindo Law, you incur zero financial risk.
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