Hurricane Michael Florida Property Damage and Injury
If you live in Florida, hurricanes are a part of life. While weather specialists can often predict a hurricane’s severity and point of impact, giving enough warning to permit preparation and evacuation if necessary, Hurricane Michael threw Floridians for a loop when it took a last minute turn toward Tampa Bay. In fact, many Floridians had evacuated to the Tampa Bay area with the expectation that Michael was going to hit Florida’s east coast. If you were injured as a result of the hurricane, however, do you have a claim for damages? And if so, against whom?
Damage From Hurricane Michael
The estimated amounts of damage caused by Hurricane Michael to places like Panama City Beach and Mexico Beach are quite large. The major forms of damage can fall into the categories of wind damage and water damage. Wind damage will typically result in the flattening of buildings that were not prepared for the onslaught of category 4 hurricane winds that blow at 137-156 miles per hour. In addition to the structural damage, wind damage causes structures, power lines, and trees to collapse, often on other structures which causes more damage.
Water damage includes not only the flooding from massive amounts of rain but the storm surge of seawater that comes in from the coast to flood. Water damage can often linger since structural damage can expose building’s frameworks to moisture that rots wood and causes mold to grow. Flooding can also cause foundations to soak in water that destabilizes the structure of a building as well. All these forms of damage can amount up to exceptional amounts that may require assistance in handling most often in the form of compensation through claim and in some cases a personal injury claim. The damage from hurricanes can sometimes bring to light areas of negligence that cause injuries that deserve compensation.
Overview of Natural Disaster Law
Whether a hurricane, blizzard, lightning strike or earthquake injured you or damaged your property, you may blame nothing but nature itself. Under the law, this is called force majeure, or “an act of God,” and it can sometimes free someone from liability. For example, the contract for the sale of a house may contain a provision that will void it without fault if a hurricane destroys the house before the parties complete the sale.
Legal protection from natural disasters normally falls into the category of insurance law, but Florida also has statutes and procedures that protect its citizens from the secondary effects of natural disasters. Florida law 501.160, for example, prohibits price gouging for commodities necessary for consumption or use as a direct result of a declared state of emergency, including:
- Gas and oil
Florida law further prohibits gouging of hotel room and rental property prices during emergencies to protect those who may want to evacuate but for financial reasons feel they cannot. You may have a price gouging claim stemming from Hurricane Michael if you can show that the cost of the residence, hotel room, or necessary commodity rose well above the average price of the good or service thirty days before the state of emergency. The law makes exceptions for businesses that incurred additional costs in connection with obtaining the goods or preparing the residence as a result of the impending disaster.
Claims Stemming From Hurricanes
During Hurricane Michael, a retention pond under construction on Interstate 4 burst, flooding numerous nearby homes. Residents filed claims for damages against the state of Florida, which agreed to reimburse them. Typically, however, your insurance policy provides compensation for property damage that humans cannot control. Hurricanes, however, can expose negligence that otherwise would not come to light. If the polluted water in a pond flooded nearby houses—although a hurricane contributed to the flood—a chemical company’s negligence could have resulted in chemicals leaking into the water and eventually causing injuries or illnesses. The same principle applies if hurricane winds damage your home and injure you, but you come to discover negligence in your home’s construction, and you would not have suffered the injuries but for the negligent construction. Again, despite the hurricane, your injuries may actually result from another’s negligence.
Insurance Companies Deny Hurricane Claims
It is not at all unusual to have the insurance company deny your hurricane damage claim. Institutions in place to ensure that insurance compaies uphold their policy commitments and handle claims in a timely manner like the Florida office of insurance regulation were in disarray after the massive damage done by Hurricane Michael. The flood of claims has made the process of receiving a settlement for damages done by the hurricane all the more difficult.
Insurance companies would much rather prefer to not payout or payout as little as possible to those filing claims to keep their profits high. To do this an insurance company may employ several strategies in order to trick you. Don’t fall for an insurance company’s tricks. Make sure that you have a lawyer by your side to identify any attempts to take advantage of you.
One of the most common strategies that an insurance company may employ is to lowball. Insurance companies may think that you do not know the full value of your claim and try to give you a much lower settlement than what you actually deserve. They will couple this with all kinds of made up delays to bleed out a claimant that needs the compensation for property repairs or injuries.
They know that claimants can be on the clock when it comes to the need for a settlement so they’ll try to force a lowball settlement into getting accepted out of desperation. Another thing they may attempt to do is try to mislead you with statements on the exact nature of your policy’s coverage. They may even try to have you settle your claim under a different policy altogether. Sometimes an insurance company will outright reject a claim.
These insurance companies will try to tell you that you don’t need a lawyer to represent you and they may be technically right which is what is most misleading. While you technically can attempt to handle a hurricane insurance claim on your own, having an experienced attorney in your corner to watch your back and work to get you the best settlement possible is highly recommended. Comparisons of people that attempt to handle claims on their own in comparison to those that work with experienced insurance claim lawyers show that those with the assistance of a lawyer receive larger settlements on average even after subtracting the lawyer’s fee.
Negligence and Hurricanes
If you believe you suffered an injury or illness as the result of negligence brought to light by Hurricane Michael, contact a personal injury attorney who can analyze what is known as the proximate cause of the injury. For example, if flying debris launched by a powerful hurricane hit you on the head, to have a legal cause of action you may need to trace the origin of the debris—a nearly impossible task. Courts would likely attribute your injury to the hurricane.
If, however, your landlord is required to remove coconuts from palm trees to protect tenants during a hurricane, and a coconut that flew off a tree injured you, then you may have a negligence case against the landlord for failing in the duty to protect you. To recover compensation against the landlord in this situation, you must prove the following elements:
- Duty: The landlord had a duty to remove the coconuts
- Breach: The landlord failed to do so
- Cause: The landlord’s failures injured you
- Damages: As a result of the landlord’s failures, you sustained damages, such as medical bills or property damage, for which the law entitles you to compensation.
Because a natural disaster can make causation difficult to prove, you need a natural disaster attorney who knows the statutory and legal duties required of property owners during emergencies such as Hurricane Michael.
Contact a Clearwater Natural Disaster Personal Injury Attorney Today
Whether you have a claim stemming from Hurricane Michael will depend on the specific facts of your case as well as Florida law. If you believe another’s negligence injured you, contact a Tampa Bay personal injury and hurricane attorney immediately. Depending on the facts of your case, you may have a claim stemming from Hurricane Michael, whether under the price protection statute, other protective statutes, or for a neighbor’s ordinary negligence.
To determine cause, contact the Dolman Law Group. They are here to fight for your right to compensation, and they can advise you as to whether you have a claim stemming from the hurricane under Florida law. Contact them today online or at (727) 451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, Florida 33765