Hurricane Ida caused extensive damage to homes and businesses throughout South Louisiana. If you are dealing with the insurance claim process, it’s important that you understand your rights. Your insurance company is obligated to adjust and pay your claim promptly within set deadlines. Failure to promptly adjuster and pay your claim within these deadlines can result in penalties and attorney’s fees.
Getting back to normal following an event like Hurricane Ida can be challenging. Dealing with insurance companies that delay, deny, or underpay valid claims can be overwhelming. At the MIC Firm, we have helped clients recover the money needed to rebuild following numerous other hurricanes including Laura, Delta, Zeta, Harvey, Michael, and Irma. We are Louisiana insurance attorneys and are available to help you rebuild following Hurricane Ida.
Residents of South Louisiana are all too aware of the dangers that hurricanes and tropical storms present. Hurricane Ida made landfall as a near Category 5 storm at Port Fourchon in Lafourche Parish on August 29, 2021. The storm sustained brought winds over 150 miles per hour and leaving over two million people without power. Extensive damage to the power grid in the region kept people with out electricity for weeks.
How to Start the Hurricane Damage Claim Process
You should not be discouraged if you feel overwhelmed by everything happening. Your first priority is to make sure that you and your loved ones are safe. Once you are settled you will need to make an insurance claim and do everything you can to document your damage and support your claim.
Making Your Insurance Claim?
You need to get the claim process started as soon as you can. To make a claim, contact your insurance agent or your insurance company directly. Review the information your insurance company provides online about making a claim. Most insurance companies allow you to make a claim online and present documents and other supports through a digital portal.
It is helpful to save your claim submissions in a digital or paper format. This way you can clearly document your claim progress.
We also recommend that you create a claim log that provides a date-by-date breakdown of each communication and action taken on your claim. Your log should be in written format and should include the who, what, when, where and how of your claim.
In addition, if you speak with an adjuster or other insurance company representative on the phone, we recommend recording the conversations if at all possible. In Louisiana, you do not need another party’s consent to record phone calls. Recorded phone calls provide definitive proof about what was told to you.
How to Document Your Damage?
When you return to your property, take as many pictures as you can of the damage to your home, other buildings, and personal property. Be careful about going onto a roof or other part of your property that is not stable. If you can, take pictures of the rood, foundation, and the walls, floors, and ceiling of each room.
For personal property, take individual pictures of as many items as you can. Create a list of all damaged personal property as well as a list of all damage to your home that you observed.
Understanding Damage Mitigation
Following a major hurricane, state or local governments may prevent you from accessing your home due to an evacuation order or other public safety action. It is important to understand that you have a duty under your insurance policy to “mitigate” or prevent further damage your property. You are only obligated to take reasonable precautions to prevent further damage.
Once you return to your property, assess the damage to determine if there are any obvious problem spots. The most common problem is damage to the roof. If you can, try to place a tarp on your roof to avoid any further water intrusion. This is the most common form of mitigation.
Many people do not own a tarp or are unable to tarp their roof themselves. In these situations, do the best you can. Often, you will need to wait for a mitigation company or contractor with the manpower to do the job right.
Additional mitigation efforts may include patching over holes in your roof and covering broken windows.
It is important to make an effort to prevent further damage so your insurance company cannot claim that you failed to mitigate.
Find Out What Your Policy Covers
Most people do not read their insurance policies closely. They are long and filled with complex language. Following a major storm, we recommend that you review your policy to understand your basic coverage. Most of the information you need to understand your basic coverage is contained in your declarations page, which will tell you how much coverage you have for your dwelling, other structures, contents, and additional living expenses. Your policy may include additional coverages for code upgrades (ordinance or law), debris removal, landscaping, and more.
We also recommend finding the deductible information in your policy. Some policies include windstorm deductibles, which are calculated as a percentage of your dwelling coverage.
Your policy includes a number of provisions about making a claim, protecting the property from further damage, submitting proof of loss, and deadlines to file suit. Knowing the general provisions in your insurance policy will be helpful in processing your insurance claim and will make it harder for the insurance company to drag your claim out. If you are unsure about what is included in your insurance policy, we are always available to offer advice about the claim process.
What Most Homeowner’s Policies Cover
Each homeowner’s policy includes a section called “Covered Perils.” This section will sometimes state that the policy covers “all perils.” Other policies will state that is covers certain perils such as damage caused by wind, fire, or hail. Homeowner’s policies generally do cover hurricane damage. Still, you should be familiar with your policy to understand your coverage when making a claim.
Homeowner’s policies various exclusions and limitations. The most important exclusion is for flood damage. If your property was damaged by wind-driven rain, that damage should be covered by your homeowner’s policy. However, if you had a flooding from water that emerged from the ground or from storm surge, that will likely be excluded by your homeowner’s insurer. You will need a separate policy for the flood damage.
Following Katrina, many homeowners had difficulty adjusting claims for properties that sustained both wind and flood damage. Hurricane Ida caused significant flooding throughout the region. If you sustained both types of damages, you should make a homeowner’s claim and flood insurance claim. Disputes often arise when two claims have been made. We recommend separating your flood and wind damage as much as possible.
Common Types of Hurricane Damage
Powerful hurricanes can cause complex damage to structures. Some common dwelling and structure damage resulting from a hurricane include:
- Roof damage;
- Broken windows;
- Damaged doors, including garage doors;
- Lost siding and sofit;
- Damaged carports;
- Damage to exterior walls from racking;
- Blown out gables and roofing systems that fail;
- Foundation damage; and
- Structural damage to the home.
In past hurricanes, we have handled a number of claims where a portion of the roof is opened up during the storm resulting in water intrusion throughout the property. This often results in a complex series of problems. For example, you may develop mold in various portions of the property that is hazardous to your health. The water damage often will cause damage to your sheetrock, sheathing, or flooring. We have represented many clients whose flooring either began to buckle or warp a few months after the storm passed.
Hurricanes often cause structural damage that insurance adjuster’s either miss or ignore. For example, high winds can cause deflections in exterior walls or instability in foundation systems. Your roofing system may also have experienced structural damage to the decking or trusses. It is important to closely evaluate your property following a major storm event to ensure you are covered for all damage.
Business Losses Following a Hurricane
If you are a business owner, several types of commercial insurance coverages may come into play following a hurricane. Commercial policies will generally cover damage to your commercial buildings as well as any lost product or stock from the storm. There are three general types of commercial property policies:
- Basic Form Coverages: These provide coverage for the most common perils including fire, wind, hail, and vandalism.
- Broad Form Coverages: These provide more expansive coverage including damages from leaking appliances, structural collapse, falling objects, and ice, sleet, or snow.
- Special Form Coverages: These provide the most expansive coverage but typically will still exclude damage from flood, earth movement, war, wear and tear, and vermin.
Many commercial policies include business interruption coverage to provide payments for lost business income and to cover certain operating costs while your business is shutdown. Most BI policies require direct property damage for coverage to be provided. However, more expansive coverage may be available.
Addressing Delayed, Denied, and Underpaid Hurricane Claims?
As we have discussed, it is not uncommon for insurance companies to improperly delay, deny, or underpay hurricane insurance claims. From our experience handling claims from Hurricanes Laura, Delta, Harvey, Michael, and Irma, insurance companies often pay a small fraction of what is needed to fully restore your property. Many insurance companies will frustrate their policyholders through unnecessary delays. If you believe your claim has not been handled properly, contact the MIC Firm for a free consultation.
We have offices in New Orleans and Houston, and our attorneys are licensed in five different states. To learn more about what legal options you might have, call us at (866) 970-0977 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.