At least 10 major hurricanes have hit Pensacola since 1936, or about one every decade. Hurricanes, if course, are deadly and incredibly destructive.
If you are like most people, you simply cannot afford to rebuild your life every 10 years or so. If you have purchased hurricane insurance, it is probably because you realized what might happen and wished to take steps to put your mind at ease.
Once a hurricane strikes, however, you might find your mind anything but at ease. Your insurance company, overwhelmed with a sudden influx of claims, is highly likely to turn adversarial on you just when you need them the most.
They may reject your claim outright, for example, or they may offer a pittance that cannot even begin to compensate you for your losses. When it’s time to get tough, contact a hurricane lawyer.
Loopholes and Excuses: Why an Insurance Company Might Deny Your Claim
Following are some of the most common excuses offered by insurance companies when they deny a claim:
- The policy specifically excludes or simply fails to cover some of the damages that you have included in your claim (catastrophic theft losses from looting, for example).
- Your claim, or parts of it, fall outside the general scope of the policy’s coverage.
- Your policy coverage lapsed because you failed to pay a premium.
- You filed your claim too late.
In some cases, the insurance company’s unreasonable denial of your claim can be characterized as a civil offense that would justify a lawsuit against the insurance company.
Types of Hurricane Insurance
The terms of your hurricane insurance policy depend on your living situation and what you are trying to protect. Following is a description of how some of the most common insurance policies work in the aftermath of a hurricane.
Homeowners’ Insurance Claims
A typical homeowners’ insurance policy will cover damage to the home itself (structural damage, for example) as well as its contents. Most policies will also cover:
- Debris removal;
- Other structures, such as a fence or shed;
- Temporary alternative living arrangements, if you have to stay in a hotel or Airbnb while your home is under repair; and
- Theft losses, at least to a point.
Unfortunately, your homeowners’ policy might not cover some of the major expenses that might arise, unless you purchased supplemental insurance separately. Examples of such expenses include windstorm damage, stormwater damage, and food spoilage.
Condominium Insurance Claims
If your condominium was damaged, you might need to deal with two hurricane insurance policies—one protecting your personal unit and one protecting public areas.
- Your personal policy should cover the contents of your condo plus the cost of any temporary alternative living arrangements that you need.
- The policy held by your condominium association should cover repairs to all public areas as well as the roof, any drywalling, and any structural damage.
Beware of “pass the buck” strategies used by insurance companies where each one tries to assert the liability of the other company.
Business Insurance Claims
When your business is damaged, you face the difficulty of not only repairing the physical damage but also protecting your income stream. Indeed, your business might need to close for weeks or even months, and your customer base might not return until the economy of your entire area has recovered.
Business insurance policies usually cover structural damage, damage to personal property, and lost business income. However, insurance companies are likely to offer particularly stiff resistance to your calculations of lost business income.
How We Can Help
Whether your insurance company is acting in bad faith or is simply being stubborn, you will probably need some help. This is especially true if you suffered physical injury or major psychological trauma that can prevent you from acting independently. We can help take the burden off you by:
- Carefully reviewing your insurance policy to determine what it actually protects and how to assert a claim with the insurance company;
- Accurately estimating and documenting the amount of your lost business income, from business interruption losses to lost customers;
- Working with your accountant to appraise the total value of your losses, and by supporting this estimate with credible and detailed documentation;
- Handling all communications with the insurance company;
- Negotiating a settlement with the insurance company (subject to your final approval, of course); and by
- Keeping you regularly informed of the progress of your case so that you can make informed decisions regarding the settlement.
As a last resort, we can file a breach of contract or bad faith lawsuit against your insurance company, should it become necessary. Hopefully, it won’t. Even if it does, however, your claim will not necessarily go to trial.
Our Contingency Fee Arrangement
A successful hurricane lawyer can set up their fee structure so that their interests are aligned with yours. That doesn’t mean charging you by the hour, which would only incentivize slow work. Instead, it means charging you on a contingency basis.
At Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon, we charge you no upfront fees. Your total legal bill will be precisely $0.00 unless we win your case and you actually receive compensation. If we win, our bill will amount to a percentage of the total compensation you receive from the insurance company.
Further, there are statutory mechanisms in which you can recover all or part of your attorneys’ fees and cost from the insurance company.
Contact the Hurricane Attorneys at Emmanuel Sheppard & Condon
If you have suffered damages in a hurricane, you must insist on full compensation. To get it, you are going to have to either negotiate with the insurance company or file a lawsuit. We can help you with both of these options.