Hurricane Irma was a massive, record-breaking storm.
Nearly 6.3 million Floridians were ordered to evacuate – one of the largest evacuations in our country’s history – and within the first four hours of Irma making landfall in our state, 1.3 million people lost power.
Let’s also not forget the torrential rain and fierce sustained winds and wind gusts felt here in South Florida and throughout the state.
In its wake, Irma has left Floridians with a lot of cleaning up to do. High winds and heavy rain have caused tons of damage to homes and businesses. Wind is typically the cause of most structural damage, whereas water from rain or storm surges can cause major flooding.
If Hurricane Irma damaged your property, it’s important to make sure you handle your insurance claim properly in order to prevent any complications. For that reason, we’ve put together a guide that will help you prepare your property damage claim and ensure you get what you’re entitled to.
Insurance Tips for Floridians Affected by Irma
With technology today, we know a hurricane is on its way days – even weeks – before it actually arrives. This ample notice gives you time to make sure your insurance policies are in order and to ask any pressing questions before the storm hits.
You should also have an inventory of your property and possessions, along with their estimated values, in the event that something winds up damaged. This way, you’re not scrambling trying to identify everything at the last minute.
If your property experiences any type of damage, follow these tips to begin your insurance claim process:
Contact your insurance company immediately. Insurers tend to visit the most damaged areas first, so if you need to make a claim, it’s important to get on your insurance company’s claim list as soon as possible.
Make sure you get a claim number and keep it in a safe place so your claim can easily be located if you have questions. Be prepared to accurately describe the damage to your property, and don’t forget to ask how long they think it will take for an insurance adjuster to reach out. Depending on the severity of your claim, it could take weeks or even months.
Take pictures and video of the damage to your property. By extensively documenting the damage to your property – as well as having records of the personal items that were damaged – your insurance adjuster will be able to give you the best claim estimate.
Document all of your repair expenses. Only make temporary repairs to prevent further damage and to make your property livable. You might be tempted to repair your property damage completely, but don’t do that until an insurance adjuster has done their inspection. Save all of your receipts related to repair expenses, including hotels and food if you’re unable to return home.
Find out if you can get rid of damaged items. Many insurance companies want you to keep damaged items until an insurance adjuster can inspect them, but for safety reasons, you might need to dispose of the damaged items instead. Check with your insurance company to see what their policy is. If you can throw damaged items away, make sure you take pictures to help with your claim.
Start a claim diary. When dealing with a property damage claim, you’ll probably have to talk to many different people – your insurance company, an adjuster, a handy man for repair estimates, and so on. If you keep a claim diary, you can keep track of all the people you deal with and take notes on the date and time you spoke as well as what you discussed.
Ask questions. You’ll most likely have a bunch of questions you want and need answers to. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions, and if the first person can’t give you the answers you’re looking for, find someone who will.
Be patient. These things take time. As mentioned above, insurers typically send adjusters to homes that have the most severe damage first. The adjuster will make it your property, but if your home wasn’t severely damaged, it might take a little longer.
If You Experience Problems with Your Insurer, Consult an Attorney Immediately
Dealing with a property damage claim can often be an overwhelming process, but if your home suffered damage, it’s the only way to make sure you get the insurance money you deserve. If you need help with your insurance claim to ensure you’re compensated fairly, reach out to an experienced Florida property damage claim attorney today.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.