Hurricane season begins on June 1st and runs through November 30. If you live in Florida, you understand firsthand that hurricane warnings and watches are a part of life. If you are a homeowner, your homeowner’s insurance can cover you for damage you might experience in the event of a hurricane. But, are you prepared to make a claim tomorrow if a hurricane strikes? Do you have sufficient coverage? Do you understand that you likely have a substantially higher hurricane deductible than for all other types of claims under your policy? Are you aware business interruption may not cover you in your business is shut down for days or weeks due to power outages that occurred off your property? Are you a renter….do you have renters insurance to protect your personal property? The time to look over your insurance policy is now, not after a storm damages your home. Leader, Leader, & Zucker, PLLC are insurance claims lawyers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida who can help you with your hurricane insurance claim should a disaster strike. Our insurance claims lawyers understand the unique challenges homeowners face when making claims. Here are ten things you can do today to prepare for your hurricane insurance claim:
- Know what your policy covers. Many homeowners (or renters or business owners) don’t know what kind of damage is covered by their homeowner’s insurance policy. For example, do you know what your deductibles are? Do you know if your policy covers you for flood damage? Do you know what steps you need to take to make a claim? Take the time to read through your policy and call your insurance if there are aspects of the policy you don’t understand. If there are any exclusions in your policy, can you purchase additional coverage to protect yourself? You may not be able to purchase additional coverage once a hurricane watch is in effect. The time to purchase additional coverage is now.
- Have insurance claim phone numbers handy and put them in a safe place. Part of your hurricane preparedness plan should include putting the contact number of your homeowner’s insurance claim department in a place where it can be readily accessed in the event of a storm. The aftermath of a hurricane can leave your home with serious damage. Do not rely on or trust that the insurance adjuster sent by your carrier will assist you. Some of them are really helpful while others will only look out for themselves and the insurance company leaving you completely lost and without funds to make your repairs. If you have any concerns or are just not sure of your next steps, call a qualified attorney that routinely handles property insurance claims for guidance before signing any agreements or make any decisions. It is also important for you to take steps to protect yourself and ensure that you receive the settlement you deserve.
- Keep records, photos, and receipts in a safe place. If your property, furniture, or electronics get damaged in a hurricane, your insurance policy may be able to compensate you for these losses. However, you may be required to supply your insurance company with photos, receipts, and records of the property damaged or lost. Keep receipts and records in a safe place where they are least likely to suffer water damage or other damage in a storm. Some people put these items in a safe deposit box. Other important documents you may want to keep in a safe place is your birth certificate, social security cards, passports, wills, and deeds. If you can take photos of these items, do so. Having backups can be incredibly important should the originals ever get destroyed. It is a good idea to scan and store these items is a very secure cloud based storage product.
- If you don’t have photos of valuable items in your home, now might be the time to take them. The time to inventory the items you have in your home is before a disaster strikes, not afterward.
- If you own expensive items, like electronics, guns, art or jewelry, you may want to contact your insurance company today to see if these items are covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. Homeowner’s insurance will only reimburse you for lost or damaged items in your home up to a specific value. If you own expensive electronics, for example, you may need to purchase a rider to provide additional coverage. Again, you may not be able to purchase riders or additional coverage once a hurricane watch has been declared for your area. The time to purchase coverage is now.
- When purchasing additional coverage for items or when reviewing coverage, do you know whether your insurance will pay for the replacement cost or for the cash value of items? The difference between these two policies can mean thousands of dollars in your settlement amounts. Cash value policies will only offer you a settlement for the cash value of an item lost or damaged in a hurricane. This might not be enough to buy a new item. Replacement value insurance will pay to replace a damaged or lost item. Remember that a new bike is always worth more than a used bike. Cash value only gives you the value of the used bike, while a replacement value policy will give you the value of a new bike.
- Do you have enough money saved to cover your deductible? One of the shocks individuals face after a disaster is the realization that their insurance won’t cover all damages. Many insurance policies have deductibles. Do you know what your deductible is and do you have enough money saved to meet it? If not, now might be the time to save.
- Have an after-storm plan. If windows are shattered in a storm or if your roof is damaged, you may be required to make temporary repairs to prevent further damage to your home. Some homeowners keep extra plywood or tarps around in their garage for this kind of emergency.
- Develop a relationship with local contractors. Contractors will likely work with clients they have a relationship with and have done work for already, especially if they are in high demand after a storm. If you don’t have a local contractor you trust, ask for recommendations now, before a hurricane hits. Having relationships with a contractor, roofer, electrician and a handyman that will help you after the storm is a very good idea.
- Have Leader, Leader, & Zucker, PLLC’s contact information handy. Many insurance claims go smoothly and insurance adjusters work with homeowners to help them settle a claim. When things go wrong, it can be helpful to have an insurance claims lawyer on your side helping you navigate the claims process.
These are some of the steps you can take today to prepare yourself for the financial consequences that hurricane season can bring to homeowners. If you have any questions about your policy or about a homeowner’s insurance claim after a hurricane, contact Leader, Leader, & Zucker, PLLC, an insurance claims lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida today. Our firm can help you navigate the claims process this hurricane season.