Hurricane Ian Damaged Your Roof?
Here’s what you need to know
Fort Lauderdale, FL – On September 28, 2022 Hurricane Ian made landfall on Florida’s Gulf coast as one of the most powerful storms to hit the U.S. Ian brought with it catastrophic 150 mph winds, heavy rainfall and storm surge to the Gulf Coast and impacted much of the state with heavy rainfall and hurricane force winds. Early indications are that Ian will be one of the costliest storms on record, with potential losses now estimated at approximately $70 billion. If your property suffered damage from Ian you may be wondering what to do now.
Timeline for the Claims Process
The first step after you have suffered a loss to your home or business is to document all of the visible damages you can see with photographs and video if possible. Walk through your property on the interior and inspect the interior rooms for signs of water damage. Inspect all of your furniture and personal possessions for damage. On the exterior, walk the perimeter of the home and inspect the walls, gutters, and grounds. You may see damage to your roof from ground level. Do not attempt to get onto your roof unless you are experienced in doing so. Save all photographs so you can submit them to your insurance company. Do not throw anything out at this time. Keep all damaged property until your claim has been inspected by the insurance company’s adjuster.
Next, you will need to report the claim to your insurance company. Most insurance policies require a claim to be reported promptly after a loss is suffered. What is and what is not prompt can vary under the circumstances. However, waiting many months or years to report a claim can be a violation of the policy conditions and result in a denial of your claim. If you believe your home suffered damage, you should not wait to report the loss to your insurance company. Contact your insurance agent and discuss with them. Check your insurance policy for any deadlines for claim reporting and for providing a notice of loss. Some insurance policies will require a proof of loss to be given within 60 days of the date of loss. Additionally, claims for flood damage made under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), whether directly from FEMA or from a Write Your Own (“WYO) carrier, can often have separate requirements for claims reporting and deadlines which differ significantly from a wind only policy. Contact your insurance carrier to report your claim promptly.
Once your claim is reported the insurance company will send an adjuster to inspect your home. Be present for the inspection and point out the areas of damage you are aware of. You may not have a background in construction or an understanding at this time as to the amount of damage to your property, the costs for repair, or even what is required to make repairs. Consider hiring a public adjuster to assist you with the estimation process. The insurance company’s adjuster does not work for you and actually works on behalf of the insurance company only.
During the claims process the insurance company may request documents from you. Additional requests may include recorded statements, proofs of loss, and/or examination under oath.
Under Florida law, the insurance company is required to pay or deny a claim within 90 days of receipt of notice. There are factors that can extend this time period, but generally, this means the claim process should be concluded in the first 90 days after the claim has been made.
Very often, insurance companies can attempt to engage in tactics to delay the claims process and to deny or underpay a loss. If you want to get the proper amount of compensation for your insurance claim you may need to hire an insurance claims attorney to guide you through the process.
Types of roof damage you should look for
You may easily see damage to your roof in the form of missing tiles or shingles, broken gutters or blown in soffit. Sometimes, however, the damage cannot be seen from ground level and requires a closer inspection. You should not climb your roof to inspect it. This can be dangerous as there may be loose or damaged components that could cause you to fall. Try to observe from upper floor windows if you have a two-story home or by using a zoom lens or binoculars. Take photos if you can. If you believe there is damage to your roof, but cannot see the damage, call an experienced roofer to inspect and prepare a repair cost estimate. The following is a non-exclusive list of the type of damage which may have occurred to your property:
- Wind damage – When Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida the maximum sustained winds were around 150 mph. At such speeds, the wind can cause catastrophic damage. Even if your home was not in the eye of the storm or did not experience Ian’s most devastating winds, your roof may have missing, torn, displaced or curled shingles. Even if the damage appears minimal, it can compromise the entire roof system and result in water damage during the next rainstorm.
- Impact damage – The hurricane’s wind can result in objects colliding with your roof, such as flying debris or fallen trees. If the winds brought large tree branches to your roof, you should have it checked by a professional. For the inexperienced eye, the damage may be hard to sport. An experienced roofer will tell you whether the debris damaged the shingles and if there’s any risk water will seep in.
- Water damage – The hurricane dumped massive quantities of rainwater. Rainwater may have penetrated your roof or walls from openings caused by the storm. If your roof gutters were clogged, this could have additionally resulted in water damage to the interior. The water damage can result in mold damage if not addressed in a proper and timely fashion. You will need to use temporary measures to mitigate and lessen the amount of damage to your home, such as putting up a temporary tarp. If mitigation is not done, the insurance company might actually use that as a reason to deny your claim.
Why would my claim be denied?
Wind damage to a roof is typically covered under a standard homeowners’ insurance policy. However, the insurance adjuster may claim that it was not Hurricane Ian that damaged your roof, but rather the damage was due to your neglect, wear and tear, and/or maintenance problems. If the insurance company denies coverage you need to contact a Florida insurance claims lawyer to dispute the denial.
If your claim is denied, don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world and the decision is not final. Some insurance policies have internal appeals processes which must be followed. Other types of policies allow you to bring a claim in court immediately after the claim is denied. A qualified attorney can assist you in navigating the claims and litigation process if necessary. They can help you with any internal appeals or request to re-open the claim to submit new information. Under Florida law, an insurance carrier is required to reexamine your claim taking into account any additional documents or information provided.