Hurricanes cause immediate and obvious damage to homes and businesses. The combination of high winds, wind-driven rain, and flooding can result in big repair bills. That is why we have property and flood insurance. Unfortunately, many insurance claims are severely underpaid preventing property owners from properly restoring the homes and businesses. Even worse, most policyholders do not fight back when they have been underpaid.
Hurricane Ida, like many hurricanes before it, caused significant damage to South Louisiana and New Orleans. The storm’s path caused significant damage throughout South Louisiana and Mississippi. These areas were impacted by winds exceeding 150 miles per hour along with significant rainfall from a painfully slow-moving storm.
Many home and business owners have experienced significant roof and interior water damage along with structural damage to their properties. Other areas experienced extensive flood damage.
Following hurricanes, insurance companies often do not properly and timely adjust insurance claims. Unfortunately, the majority of policyholders do not fight back, which emboldens insurance companies to continue to not properly handle claims. As we have seen from cases we have handled from Hurricanes Laura, Delta, Michael, Harvey, and Irma, policyholders typically do very well when they fight back. If you are skeptical, see our results from handling Hurricane Laura cases.
How to File Your Hurricane Ida Claim
If your home of business was damaged by Hurricane Ida, you probably have already made an insurance claim through your insurance agent or directly with your insurance company. If you have not yet made a claim, contact your insurance agent or company as soon as possible to get the claim process started. The deadlines for the insurance company to inspect your property are normally increased following a major catastrophic event. The sooner you can make your claim, the sooner you can begin to make progress.
To make a claim, you may need access an online portal to upload documents, estimates, photographs, and other claim information. Your agent or representative should be able to guide you through the process.
Keep A Record of Everything
After a claim has been made, be sure to make a record or log of all calls and communication with your insurance adjuster. This includes the date of the communication, the person you spoke with, and the reason for the communication. Add your insurance policy and claim information to this file. If possible, do your best to record conversations with insurance adjusters or other personnel from the insurance company. In the past, we have been amazed by what adjusters will say when they do not believe they are being recorded.
You should also save in a safe location all pictures and videos related to the hurricane damage. This includes any damage to your roof if you can access it safely. It is incredibly helpful to also have pictures of your home from prior to the storm so you can prove the damage caused by the storm.
You may not be able to gather everything suggested. That is okay. Gather what you can and start now; make it a point to record things consistently in case you find your roof insurance claim denied.
Attending the Inspection
Your insurance company should coordinate an inspection with you. Be sure to note in your log or journal, each conversation you had regarding scheduling the inspection. Sometimes, the inspection is delayed, rescheduled, or done in a brief and haphazard manner. Be sure to keep notes about your interactions with the inspector and other representatives from the insurance company.
At the inspection, feel free to film or take pictures of the inspection. There is nothing that prevents or says you cannot record the CAT adjuster. You are the policyholder. Your premiums keep the insurance company in business and it owes you the obligation to inspect your property thoroughly. The reason you want to record the CAT adjuster is to document if they have not properly inspected portions of the case or gathered information needed to properly adjust the claim and estimate your damages.
Getting Estimates and Contractor Bids
During the adjustment process, you should begin communicating with local contractors to get estimates and bids to make repairs. Do not inform the contractors how much money the insurance company is willing to pay. Instead, have the contractor conduct a thorough inspection of the property and discuss any significant problems you have observed.
When getting an estimate or bid, do not hesitate to ask if your property needs code upgrades. Most policies provide coverage for code upgrades and it is a coverage area often overlooked by both insurance adjusters and contractors. A reputable contractor should be able to discuss basic building codes and what can be done to get your property into compliance.
It is normally a good practice to get at least three bids. It is important to understand what the contractors think need to be done. It is also very helpful if the contractor provide the estimate of the work to be performed in Xactimate or other type of software that insurance companies use to adjust claims. That way, it will be easier for you to request a supplemental payment.
Create a List of Lost or Damaged Personal Property and Keep all Receipts
Many policyholders fail to maximize their personal property claims. It is covered in your policy. You should try to maximize that coverage. Following the storm, go through all items that remain in your property. Photograph everything that may be damaged and create a list of those items. You should try to include a record of the item’s serial numbers, model, make, and date of purchase.
For items that were totally destroyed, do the best list you can. Often older photographs can be helpful in creating a list of items that are no longer located at the property.
In addition, your policy covers loss of use. Keep track of all your extra living expenses. This includes hotel stays, trailer rentals, storage costs, and additional food expenses. Your ALE coverage is what is called a “cost incurred” expense. This means the insurance company will reimburse you expenses once incurred.
Addressing Underpayment by the Insurance Company
Do not be surprised if the insurance company’s estimate is significantly less than what a contractor will charge to do the work. As mentioned before, CAT adjusters often substantially underestimate the cost of repair and will omit numerous items that should be covered from their reports.
Try to understand why your claim was underpaid. Speak with the adjuster and ask them to explain why items were omitted or undervalued. Sometimes you may be able to work out these differences by presenting a contractor’s bid or simply explaining what was missed. Often times, the adjuster is busy handling a few hundred claims and simply does not have the time to properly address your issue.
Main Reasons Why Hurricane Claims are Underpaid, Delayed, and Denied
Many of the pitfalls in the insurance claim process begin with the way the Cat adjusters are assigned properties to inspect. The adjusters sent to inspect your property are probably not full-time employees of your insurance company. Rather, they are brought in from all over the country so the insurance company can attempt to inspect properties before being subject to delay penalties. These adjusters are often given too many properties to inspect in a professional manner due. Many inspections are incredibly brief and rarely are thorough. This results in poor loss adjustments on the front end.
CAT adjusters often fail to fully inspect each room of the house. They do not closely consider major and often obvious structural damage to the house. In addition, they will often recommend doing a small portion of the work needed to make the property whole. For example, CAT adjusters often overlook the extent of water and mold damage to a property resulting in estimates substantially less than what a local contractor would charge to properly restore the property.
Not Hiring Proper Experts
Many initial adjustments will overlook or deny portions of your damage on the grounds that the damage was not caused by the hurricane. However, following a hurricane, many insurance adjusters will be slow or reluctant to hire an engineer or other expert to determine if there was a proper basis to deny all or part of your insurance claim. This puts pressure on the policyholder to find ways to prove their claim when, in fact, the insurance company’s duty is to try to find insurance coverage.
The reason insurance companies do not hire the experts needed to determine the scope of coverage is because many policyholders do not fight back when their claim is underpaid or partially denied.
Many insurance adjusters will ignore much of the water, wind, or flood damage to a policyholder’s property. The same goes for other more complicated items such as structural damage, foundation damage, damage to the exterior of the property, and code-related issues. If your insurance company is being unresponsive, has undervalued your claim, or has denied your claim, it’s important to seek the help of an experienced insurance attorney.
Stonewalling the Insured
Many claims are handled in a disorganized and haphazard manner. Some insurance companies make a habit of assigning and reassigning adjusters to a claim to prevent the insured from having an effective mode of communication with the insurance company. Other times, insurance adjusters will simply not return calls, emails, letters, and act with extreme indifference towards the adjustment of your claim.
It is important that you document your attempts at communication in writing. This will establish that the insurance company dropped the ball in handling your claim and that you made diligent efforts to keep your claim progressing ahead.
Most People Do Not Fight Back
Perhaps the biggest reason why insurance companies do not properly pay claims is because most homeowners do not fight back when their claim is not handled and paid properly. From our experience, fighting back is worth it. We have helped many homeowners following hurricanes to recover the compensation they need to rebuild.
The MIC Firm: Experienced Insurance Lawyers Offering Free Consultations 24/7
The MIC Firm has offices in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi. Representing homeowners in insurance disputes is one of our main focuses, and we have helped our clients recover millions of dollars in insurance claims. When you need an attorney for your Hurricane Ida insurance claim, we are here for you. For a free consultation, please contact us online or by phone.