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Florida Hurricanes and Your Home Insurance

Just recently, Texas and Louisiana suffered from severe flooding due to Hurricane Harvey.  As the worst storm in 50 years hung over the two states, it killed an estimated 50 people, displaced more than 1 million, and damaged some 200,000 homes with flooding and wind damage. Texas Governor Greg Abbott estimated damage from Hurricane Harvey at $150 billion to $180 billion, calling it more costly than epic Hurricanes Katrina or Sandy, which devastated New Orleans in 2005 and New York City in 2012. Now, just days after the event, many of the residents are beginning the process of assessing flood damage, calling their insurance companies, and hoping they can work out some way to pay for these costs [1].

During Hurricane Harvey, we all watched on TV, wishing them well and looking for ways to help. Now, Hurricane Irma is threatening Florida in the most menacing way. Could it be our turn to ride our a devastating hurricane?

As the homeowners in Texas begin to collect themselves and we here in Florida begin to prepare for the worst, at least somewhere in the backs of our minds we are all beginning to wonder: How will our home insurance work? What will be covered?

How Do Hurricane Deductibles Work?

In Texas, just like in Florida, the state allows insurance companies to apply hurricane deductibles onto homeowner’s policies. Every state’s insurance department will have its own regulations that insurance companies must follow. In some coastal areas with high wind risk, insurers may require hurricane deductibles higher than a standard of 5 percent. Some states let policyholders choose higher hurricane deductibles to reduce their premiums. Whether a hurricane deductible applies to a claim depends on the specific benchmark picked by your home insurance company or state insurance department.

If you think you have coverage on your home for hurricane risks, pull out a copy of your policy or call your insurance company to find out. Once you’re looking at your policy, do an internet search on anything you’re not clear about. It’s better to understand your coverage now before you are in a possible emergency situation later.

What’s the difference between wind and hurricane coverage in Florida?

As a result of Florida’s risk for severe storms, many homeowner insurance carriers now include a “wind” or “hurricane” deductible. In fact, many insurance carriers slipped in the change in deductibles with little notification to policyholders. But what’s the difference between a wind deductible and a hurricane deductible?

A hurricane deductible applies to damage sustained from a hurricane. Some insurance companies include a specific mile-per-hour wind speed, while others state that the hurricane must be designated as such by the National Weather Service or the National Hurricane Center. As a result, this form is more appealing.

A wind deductible is more penalizing than a hurricane deductible. A wind deductible applies to any wind damage, and is not limited to a storm that meets the definition of a hurricane or a particular “mile-per-hour” wind speed requirement. This form will impose the larger out of pocket cost to the policyholder for any and all wind claims [2].

What about Florida flood coverage?

Flood insurance is offered through the deferral government’s National Flood Insurance Programs and policies are sold and managed by private insurance companies. This means your insurance company might pay to remove the trees that have fallen during the storm, but they won’t cover damage from rain that’s entered your home. It’s important to go over your insurance policy with your insurance professional who will make sure that your home is properly insured with the proper terms and conditions available in the marketplace.

Is it too late to buy coverage for the hurricane?

If you’re thinking about rushing out to get coverage before a major storm, you’re not alone. But keep in mind, it most likely won’t do any good for an eminent storm.  For example, flood insurance coverage does not take into effect until 30 days after purchase [3]. This waiting period is designed for the exact reason you think: to prevent people from running out and buying it when they think they will need it. Insurance companies prefer to pay them for a few decades before they pay out.

For other coverage like wind and hurricane insurance, there are different waiting period, depending on carrier. But there is a slim to non-existent chance that any coverage purchased now would cover you for a storm that is approaching in the next few days.

What about car insurance for damage from a storm?

Comprehensive car insurance typically covers damage to your car from flooding, hail, and other severe weather. However, insurance carriers typically won’t sell new auto coverage of this type if your area is under a hurricane watch or if severe weather is eminent. It may be worth a shot though, so ask your insurer about adding comprehensive coverage for your car if you don’t already have it [4].

Dolman Law Group

‘There’s no place like home’ and there are few situations more stressful than having your family’s safe haven destroyed by a catastrophic hurricane.  Home owners faithfully pay their insurance premium each month in hopes that their coverage will protect them in the event of significant property damage.  However, the claims process can sometimes be arduous, frustrating, and disheartening.  If your claim is denied, the appeals process can be even more overwhelming; the very insurance company that denied you claim typically will be the decision maker regarding the appeal.

The odds are stacked against the home owner when a hurricane hits and loss occurs.  Experienced and competent representation can make a tremendous difference in the claims fight. An experienced Florida insurance bad faith attorney will understand how to protect you by proceeding with a bad faith insurance claim. As a Florida personal injury law firm, we make it a point to work with the insurance carriers and provide them with all pertinent records and cooperate as much as possible. The insurance carrier will often screw up without you forcing their hand. If you or a loved one has had a bad faith experience with an insurance company, do not hesitate to contact your Florida Insurance Coverage Attorneys at Dolman Law Group.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions. You can reach us in one of these 4 ways:

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Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, Florida 33765
727-451-6900

Insurance Bad Faith

References:
[1] http://fortune.com/2017/09/03/hurricane-harvey-damages-cost/ 
[2] https://www.greenwichsentinel.com/2015/10/05/on-insurance-wind-or-hurricane-a-tale-of-two-deductibles/
[3] http://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/hurricane-joaquin-get-your-home-insurance-go-bag-ready-n437121

[4] https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2017/08/28/can-you-buy-last-minute-hurricane-insurance/608770001/ 

Harvey Flooding Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by:1st Lt. Zachary West (Link)

Harvey Flooding Photo 2: U.S. Air Force (Link)

Side by Side Images: Hurricane Satellite Source & Hurricane Irma Path Source