Hurricane and Homeowner Insurance Claims
Bookmark this page! This page contains important information in the event you need to file a Hurricane Irma insurance claim, or any other homeowner insurance claim in Florida.
If you need to make a Hurricane Irma insurance claim in Florida, or need help with a homeowner claim, contact our Florida homeowner insurance claim lawyers now to find out what compensation you may be entitled to at 800-337-7755. As a Florida insurance attorney who has handled more than 5,500 insurance claims in Florida, our insurance lawyers are here to assist with your Hurricane Irma claim or any other homeowner insurance claim throughout Florida. We are on call and open late and weekends to assist with your Hurricane Irma claim or homeowner insurance claim.
Under Florida insurance law, your homeowner insurance policy must generally cover windstorm damage. Your deductible may be much higher than a non-hurricane related claim, but you still may be covered. Subject to a few exceptions, Florida Statute 627.712 states that, “An insurer issuing a residential property insurance policy must provide windstorm coverage.”
Tips to Prepare for a Hurricane Claim in Florida:
Before the storm
-Take photographs or video of the outside and inside of your house, and any possessions you have inside the house. This could help prove your damages in the event of a hurricane claim.
-Take a photograph on your phone of your homeowner’s policy, car insurance policy, jewelry policy, flood insurance policy, hurricane/windstorm policy and any other insurance policy you have. This way you have the information handy in the event of a loss.
-Try to minimize damage if possible by securing your home, bringing any unsecured objects from your lawn or patio inside, and boarding or shuttering your windows.
-Bag any important items to help protect them from water or debris in the event of intrusion in your house.
After the storm
-If you have damage, report your insurance claim as soon as possible to your insurance company. Claims may be processed on a first in, first out basis.
-Try to assess what you lost and make an itemized list of what was damaged.
-Take photographs or video of all visible damage.
-Do not accept an insurance settlement until you speak with your homeowner claim attorney, or are sure there are no other issues with your home or claims you may be entitled to make under your policy.
-You could make supplemental claims up to 3 years after the storm passes as long as you don't settle your claim for full and final payment of all claims. This can help you in the event you later find damage in the walls or attic after the initial homeowner claim, or other hidden damage that comes out later.
What Damages Does My Hurricane Insurance Cover?
Hurricane Windstorm Coverage
Florida law requires all residential property insurance policies to include hurricane windstorm coverage (Fla. Stat. § 627.0629(6)). Specifically, the law states, “An insurer may not write a residential property insurance policy without providing windstorm coverage or hurricane coverage.” “Hurricane coverage” is defined under Florida law as coverage for loss or damage caused by the peril of windstorm during a hurricane. The term includes ensuing damage to the interior of a building, or to property inside a building, caused by rain, snow, sleet, hail, sand, or dust if the direct force of the windstorm first damages the building, causing an opening through which rain, snow, sleet, hail, sand, or dust enters and causes damage. (Fla. Stat. § 627.4025(2)(a)).
“Windstorm” under the law means wind, wind gusts, hail, rain, tornadoes, or cyclones caused by or resulting from a hurricane which results in direct physical loss or damage to property. “Hurricane” under Florida insurance law means a storm system that has been declared to be a hurricane by the National Hurricane Center of the National Weather Service. The duration of the hurricane includes the time period, in Florida:
1. Beginning at the time a hurricane watch or hurricane warning is issued for any part of Florida by the National Hurricane Center of the National Weather Service;
2. Continuing for the time period during which the hurricane conditions exist anywhere in Florida; and
3. Ending 72 hours following the termination of the last hurricane watch or hurricane warning issued for any part of Florida by the National Hurricane Center of the National Weather Service.
What Can I Claim As Damage In A Homeowner Or Hurricane Claim?
Your homeowner policy may entitle you to compensation for many different things. Some of the types of claims you may be allowed to make under a homeowner policy could include:
- Structural Damage – This may include damage to the physical structure of your residence, both outside and inside. Roof tiles or shingles may be replaced under this policy provision.
- Exterior Damage – This may include damage to your landscaping, fence, playground, or pool.
- Damage to Personal Property – Any damage to your personal property may be covered for replacement, like furniture, appliances, clothing, and kitchen items.
- Hotel Reimbursement – Costs for you to stay outside of your home during the storm and during repairs may be covered.
- Loss of Food – Any perishables which went bad as a result of the storm and power loss may be covered.
- Cleaning – Any costs to clean your residence following hurricane damage may be covered.
- Alternative Living Arrangements – If you cannot stay in your home following damage, you may be entitled to reimbursement for your alternative living arrangements.
- Vehicle Damage – Damage to your vehicle is generally covered under comprehensive coverage, but damage to any of your personal property or possessions within the vehicle may be covered by your homeowner insurance.
- Pool Damage – Damage to your pool equipment or lining may be covered to get it repaired.
- Other Structures On Your Property – Other structures, like a shed or barn, may be covered for damage.
- Diminished Value – You may be entitled to the diminished value of property caused by a loss.
Contact our firm now or call 1-800-337-7755. It's a free consultation!
Property Damage Claim Procedures For Hurricane Claims
If you make a hurricane or homeowner claim in Florida, there are several laws which may apply to help process your claim.
- 14 day acknowledgment of claim - Upon an insurer’s receiving a communication with respect to a claim, the insurer shall, within 14 calendar days, review and acknowledge receipt of such communication unless payment is made within that period of time or unless the failure to acknowledge is caused by factors beyond the control of the insurer which reasonably prevent such acknowledgment.
- 10 days to start the investigation - Unless otherwise provided by the policy of insurance or by law, within 10 working days after an insurer receives proof of loss statements, the insurer shall begin such investigation as is reasonably necessary unless the failure to begin such investigation is caused by factors beyond the control of the insurer which reasonably prevent the commencement of such investigation.
- 90 days to pay the claim - Within 90 days after an insurer receives notice of an initial, reopened, or supplemental property insurance claim from a policyholder, the insurer shall pay or deny such claim or a portion of the claim unless the failure to pay is caused by factors beyond the control of the insurer which reasonably prevent such payment. If your claim is not paid within 90 days of making the initial notice of claim, feel free to contact our Florida hurricane attorneys to see if we can help get the insurance company to pay the claim. You may also be entitled to interest on your claim. Under Florida law, interest generally begins to accrue from the date the insurer receives notice of the claim. This means that even if the claim takes more than 90 days to process, you may be entitled to interest on the settlement from the date of the initial claim.
Florida law provides that you must put your hurricane insurance company on notice of your claim within 3 years from when the hurricane first made landfall. This also includes a supplemental claim and reopened claim.
Specifically, Florida Statute 627.70132 provides, “Notice of windstorm or hurricane claim.—A claim, supplemental claim, or reopened claim under an insurance policy that provides property insurance, as defined in s. 624.604, for loss or damage caused by the peril of windstorm or hurricane is barred unless notice of the claim, supplemental claim, or reopened claim was given to the insurer in accordance with the terms of the policy within 3 years after the hurricane first made landfall or the windstorm caused the covered damage. For purposes of this section, the term “supplemental claim” or “reopened claim” means any additional claim for recovery from the insurer for losses from the same hurricane or windstorm which the insurer has previously adjusted pursuant to the initial claim. This section does not affect any applicable limitation on civil actions provided in s. 95.11 for claims, supplemental claims, or reopened claims timely filed under this section.”
Sometimes issues may not manifest or arise until after your initial claim is made to your hurricane insurance policy, like mold damage. Water intrusion or mold may not be immediately visible, and supplemental claims may be made within 3 years of the hurricane’s landfall.
You Can Choose Your Own Contractor
You have a right to choose your own contractor to perform homeowner repairs following a hurricane or other homeowner damage loss. Many insurance companies have contracts with recommended contractors, however they do not own them and are not liable for issues with the contractor. Florida law says that an insurer who offers residential coverage is allowed to contract with a building contractor skilled in techniques that mitigate hurricane damage.
Insurers may offer policyholders the option to select the services of such building contractors to repair damage covered by the insurance policy. The insurer must guarantee the building contractor’s work and may offer the policyholder any other terms, conditions, or benefits. However, the insurance company is not liable for the actions of the building contractor.
What Happens If My Insurance Company Goes Bankrupt?
Florida law provides for the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, or FIGA, to take over policies of insolvent or bankrupt insurance companies. Under Florida’s FIGA statute, the association shall be obligated to the extent of the covered claims existing:
a. Prior to adjudication of insolvency and arising within 30 days after the determination of insolvency;This guaranty includes only the amount of each covered claim which is in excess of $100 and is less than $300,000, except that policies providing coverage for homeowner’s insurance shall provide for an additional $200,000 for the portion of a covered claim which relates only to the damage to the structure and contents. FIGA typically assesses a $100 deductible to whatever payout you may receive under the terms of your original policy, but your claim may still be able to be made if your insurance company goes bankrupt.
b. Before the policy expiration date if less than 30 days after the determination; or
c. Before the insured replaces the policy or causes its cancellation, if she or he does so within 30 days of the determination.
If your insurance company goes bankrupt or is taken over by FIGA, our hurricane insurance attorneys have handled many claims against FIGA over the years. We can help continue to fight to get you the insurance settlement you deserve.
Does My Flood Insurance Cover A Hurricane Claim?
It depends. It often depends on what the cause of the damage to your home is. Most claims will fall under the windstorm policy, or homeowner insurance policy. However, flood damage is possible following a hurricane. Florida law defines “Flood” as a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties, at least one of which is the policyholder’s property, from:
1. Overflow of inland or tidal waters;That means that the damage generally must be caused by one of the four categories above in order to fall within your flood insurance policy in Florida. If water was caused by a pipe burst after the home was struck by wind or debris from a hurricane, for example, the claim would generally fall under the homeowner policy and not the flood policy, as the damage was caused by wind damage, not a rise in water or similar effect.
2. Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source;
3. Mudflow; or
4. Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined in this paragraph.
Replacement Cost Value Of Claims
You must look at your policy to see whether you are entitled to replacement coverage. If you are, then you may be protected by Florida Statute 626.9744 which provides that when a homeowner’s insurance policy provides for the adjustment and settlement of first-party losses based on repair or replacement cost, the following requirements apply:
(1) When a loss requires repair or replacement of an item or part, any physical damage incurred in making such repair or replacement which is covered and not otherwise excluded by the policy shall be included in the loss to the extent of any applicable limits. The insured may not be required to pay for betterment required by ordinance or code except for the applicable deductible, unless specifically excluded or limited by the policy.Attorneys’ Fees and Homeowner and Hurricane Damage Claims
(2) When a loss requires replacement of items and the replaced items do not match in quality, color, or size, the insurer shall make reasonable repairs or replacement of items in adjoining areas. In determining the extent of the repairs or replacement of items in adjoining areas, the insurer may consider the cost of repairing or replacing the undamaged portions of the property, the degree of uniformity that can be achieved without such cost, the remaining useful life of the undamaged portion, and other relevant factors.
Most cases are handled on a contingency fee, but the Courts may award attorneys’ fees to help pay or offset your total fees depending on the stage of your case when it is resolved. Florida Statute 627.428 provides that upon the rendition of a judgment or decree by any of the courts of this state against an insurer and in favor of any named or omnibus insured or the named beneficiary under a policy or contract executed by the insurer, the trial court or, in the event of an appeal in which the insured or beneficiary prevails, the appellate court shall adjudge or decree against the insurer and in favor of the insured or beneficiary a reasonable sum as fees or compensation for the insured’s or beneficiary’s attorney prosecuting the suit in which the recovery is had.
If you have any damage from Hurricane Irma in Florida or any other homeowner claim, contact an insurance lawyer at the Law Offices of Jason Turchin today for a free consultation. We are available to help with your homeowner insurance claim after hours, and are on call to help answer your questions. Call us at 800-337-7755 or 954-515-5000.