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Things I Wish I Could Tell Our Future Clients BEFORE Hurricane Irma – An Insurance Attorney’s Perspective

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Please read everything below and share it if you find it helpful.  This brief article is only about what to do from a legal point of view and NOT about safety.  Let’s get to it.

FIRST THING:     Find your insurance policy or policies or at least the “declarations page” and store it in your phone including the phone number of your insurance company.  You must understand two things:  First, that your hurricane deductible is likely much higher than you imagine.  Most policies we have seen in the last few years have 5% or even 10% deductibles meaning your deductible is five or ten percent of the total amount of coverage to the home.  The amount of the deductible is stated in large font on your declarations page.  Second, flood damage is NOT covered by your home insurance.  Flood insurance is a separate policy that is run by the Federal Government.  Flood damage is from ground water that enters the home.

BEFORE THE HURRICANE:     Video (do not take pictures) the outside of your home – a complete walk-around.  Be sure to state your name, the date and time, at the beginning each time you start and stop the video.  Focus on doors, windows, and the roof.  The purpose is to show your home exterior was in good condition prior to the storm.  This should be a 5-10 minute video and you will then upload the video to a cloud-based service like Google Drive.

You will then do the same thing inside the home but will video your more expensive personal possessions like your television and furniture.  As much as possible, detail the item as you video (eg.  “This is a Sony 55 inch 4k LED television I purchased last year”).  Make sure to video every item in the home of any value.  This video should also be at least 5-10 minutes and then you should upload it to somewhere secure.

DURING THE STORM:     If possible, take video of any damage that may become evident during the storm.  Why?  Because, as noted above, generally ground water that comes into your home is NOT covered and water that does not come in from the ground, is.  So, if you document that water is coming into the home from a hole in the stucco or a busted window, the claim is made that much easier.

AFTER THE STORM:     Every insurance policy requires that the insured (you) mitigate damages.  That means you must do your best to minimize how much damage your home incurs.  Again, you must document your efforts so that the insurance company cannot later argue that you failed in your duty to mitigate.  You might place a tarp over a part of the roof or move certain items from one room to another in order to protect them.  Whatever you do, document it with video.

Next, you will timely make a claim for damages with your insurance company.  I cannot emphasize enough: as much as possible, put things in writing.  Certain communications will be by telephone but once a claim number and adjuster are assigned, begin to communicate by email or facsimile.  Show in your words and actions that you are trying to help your insurance company fairly adjust your claim.  I never want to see harsh or abusive emails from my clients.

And remember, most claims adjusters want to do a good and honest job.  Help them do a good and honest job adjusting your claim but protect yourself in case they don’t.

Best of luck and stay safe.  If you find yourself in need of assistance or advice, please do not hesitate to contact us at (407)403-3333 or (407)422-2188.  I can also be reached by email at jhogan@hoganlegal.com.

Jeremy Hogan
Jeremy Hogan
Attorney Jeremy Hogan is a partner at Hogan & Hogan.