Residential Hurricane Damage Insurance Claims
Homeowners Suffer Many Losses After a Hurricane
Hurricane season brings with it many challenges for homeowners. Likely, the most significant is dealing with the aftermath of destruction left by torrential rains and heavy winds. It’s often hard to know what your next step should be upon returning home after a storm. When faced with such a challenge, seek the advice of a professional public adjuster rather than trusting your insurance company to look after your best interests.
The Best Attitude to Have Towards Your Insurance Company
Although you pay in to your homeowner’s insurance companies either monthly or annually, do not assume that the insurance company will handle your claim with the same timeliness and diligence with which you paid your premiums. Some insurance companies certainly do, but many do not, so it’s best to maintain a healthy degree of skepticism when you are looking at losses that could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars to you and to them. Do not assume that the insurance company’s loyal employee is going to be able to fairly take into account the interests of both you, his customer and his employer. There’s an inherent conflict of interest that is difficult for even the most fair-minded adjusters.
One way of keeping the upper hand is by asking your adjuster questions after the hurricane has passed and writing down the answers. Here are some questions to get you started:
- Do you have a list of people who can tarp our house to protect it from additional damage? (This expense is “covered” by your insurance policy and you will be reimbursed for this cost if you have to pay someone out-of-pocket for this kind of work; hold on to any invoices or receipts. Some vendors will agree just to bill the insurance company directly but see more cautionary measures below regarding this).
- Can you give us a cash advance so we will have some money to buy the things that we need?
- When can we expect you to have an estimate to us?
- How would you like for us to file for reimbursement of our Additional Living Expenses?
- How long after we send them to you can we expect it will be before you to reimburse us?
- Other than providing us some housing, what other benefits does our policy include for that we need to know about?
- Would you mind giving me your cell phone number and your email address?
- What’s the next thing you will be doing for us, and what do you need from us in order to move our claim forward and keep it there?
Not only do insurance companies put their own best interests first, they often do not explain to their policyholders that they possess a mutually beneficial relationship with any preferred contractor they might introduce to the homeowner. These preferred contractors are “preferred” for a reason as they typically agree with the adjuster’s scope of damage and say that they can do the repairs for the amount being offered by the carrier. It’s more about pleasing the adjuster and “carrying the water” for the insurance company than looking after the owner’s interest. Rather than conducting a thorough inspection and accurately assessing all damage, they work hand-in-hand with the adjuster to minimize the amount of work needed, and only repair damage according to what the insurance company determines to be acceptable. There can’t possibly be a good outcome for any homeowner with that kind of relationship between the insurance company and their preferred contractors.
Public Claims Adjusters Work for the People
Highly skilled public adjusters know how important it is for the homeowner who has never filed a claim on a large loss before, to have someone looking after their interests. They understand more than anyone that the carrier has plenty of experience and expertise on their side of the claim and thus are well-equipped to look after their own interests. Additionally, an experienced public adjuster has the requisite skills (honed through a history of advocating for hundreds of other homeowners) to sort through the pile of information requested by the insurance company to make sure that there are no loose ends and that the homeowner gets all of the benefits that they paid for. In addition to large amounts of paperwork, the complexities of most insurance policies make it ideal for homeowners to shift the enormous burden associated with filing a claim to a public adjuster so they can sort through the details. After a catastrophic hurricane, there is probably no worse time for a family to try and figure out how to maximize their claim.
Typically, after a homeowner has experienced damage caused by a hurricane, they will file a claim with the insurance company, who will send them an estimate after several weeks that, more often than not, falls short of the necessary amount to fully restore their home and property back to its original condition. Then, the homeowner is expected to either use the insurance company’s preferred contractor or find one willing to work for the approved payment amount. Neither alternative is attractive as the lack of funds will force the contractor to look for shortcuts in order to maintain their profit margins. Shortcuts that are manifested in the quality of material and labor put into your largest financial investment. However, when a homeowner chooses to hire a public adjuster to handle the claims process from start to finish, the adjuster becomes an advocate, compelling the insurance company to do the right thing. The “right thing” means paying every nickel necessary to restore the house to its original state before the storm hit. Not a nickel more than needed, but not a nickel less either. Once the process is complete, the homeowner is made whole again and can easily have their home and property repaired to its prior condition.