When you think about destructive weather events in Florida, you probably picture hurricanes and floods. These extreme weather events can cause catastrophic damage, but few things match the destructive power of a tornado. Though the state is more known for hurricanes, tornados do occur in Florida, and they cause significant harm to people and property alike. Figuring out what to do after a tornado can be a considerable challenge.
You need a lawyer if a tornado damages your home, and the Dolman Law Group is here to defend your rights. Our Florida tornado damage attorneys have seen how extreme weather can disrupt people’s lives and want to help you get back to normal.
With more than 120 years of cumulative legal experience, our Florida tornado damage lawyers know how to stand up to insurance companies and help you recover compensation. We have more than a dozen locations throughout Florida and will meet with you anytime to discuss your case. Call us today or visit our contact page for a free consultation and to learn more about your legal options.
- How Do Tornadoes Form?
- Do Tornadoes Occur in Florida?
- Why You Need a Florida Tornado Damage Attorney
- Why Choose Dolman Law Group for Your Tornado Damage Case
- What Your Insurance Covers in a Florida Tornado Damage Claim
- Other Possible Compensation for Tornado Damage
- The Tornado Damage Insurance Claim Process
- Why Insurance Companies Deny Tornado Damage Claims
- What to Do When a Tornado Damages Your Home
- Frequently Asked Questions About Florida Tornado Damage Claims
- Contact Our Florida Tornado Damage Lawyers Now
How Do Tornadoes Form?
National Geographic describes tornadoes as “vertical funnels of rapidly spinning air.” Tornadoes form inside thunderstorms and are extensions of the storms in which they are born. Cold, dense air pushes up and forms an updraft when it collides with warm, humid air in a storm system. If the wind in the storm system varies in speed or direction, the updraft may begin to rotate.
A mesocycle is a rotating updraft in a thunderstorm. As the storm moves, the mesocycle draws in more warm air, causing the mesocycle’s rotation speed to increase. The mesocycle may gain even more energy by absorbing cool air from the jet stream in the atmosphere.
If enough water droplets are in the air, the mesocycle will form a funnel cloud. As the thunderstorm moves, the mesocycle will continue to gain strength, causing the funnel cloud to grow. Once the funnel cloud is large enough that it extends from the thunderstorm to the ground, it becomes a tornado.
Do Tornadoes Occur in Florida?
While Florida is strongly associated with hurricanes and floods, tornadoes are also common in the Sunshine State. According to the Florida Climate Center at Florida State University, there are more tornadoes per 10,000 square miles than in any other state. As hard as it is to believe, Florida is hit by more tornadoes than states that are more known for them, such as Oklahoma and Texas.
The Florida Climate Center lists four common scenarios that commonly cause tornadoes.
Those four scenarios are:
- Tornadoes spawned within a hurricane that made landfall
- Tornadoes formed from isolated thunderstorms in the summer
- Tornadoes that form along squall lines ahead of spring cold fronts moving in from the northern U.S.
- Tornadoes that form along squall lines when masses of warm air converge
There are recent examples of tornadoes causing significant damage in Florida. When Hurricane Ian hit, several tornadoes spawned on Florida’s eastern coast. News reports indicate Hurricane Ian led to 70 tornado warnings in Florida and North Carolina before the storm dissipated.
The bottom line is you should take tornadoes seriously if you live in Florida. Purchase insurance with tornado coverage, listen to local authorities when a tornado warning hits, and take precautions to prepare yourself and your home for a storm.
Why You Need a Florida Tornado Damage Attorney
The Florida Climate Center reports tornadoes can have winds over 250 mph. By contrast, the National Weather Service says a Category 5 hurricane has wind speeds of 157 mph or more. The intense winds of a tornado can cause significant property damage and severe injuries to anyone caught in the storm.
Because tornadoes can be so destructive, working with an experienced tornado damage lawyer on your case is imperative.
Some of the reasons you need an attorney’s help include:
- Speeding up your claim: Chances are you have never had to file a tornado damage claim before. But tornado damage lawyers handle these cases every day. Having an experienced ally on your side can help you avoid potentially damaging mistakes. Working with a tornado damage claim attorney can also make the claims process more efficient, so you can get the money you need faster.
- Making your life easier: Do you want to spend weeks or months talking to an insurance company after a tornado? Most likely not, but you may have to without a lawyer’s help. Without a tornado damage attorney representing you, you must take care of all the legal work yourself. Not only is all that work time-consuming, but it also prevents you from taking care of other important matters. Instead of agonizing over your case yourself, let a lawyer handle it for you.
- Maximizing your compensation: Tornadoes can cause catastrophic property damage. The tornado can damage or destroy structures, depending on its strength and how close it got to your home. You may also be dealing with expensive medical bills and have to replace many of your belongings. All these costs add up, which means you need as much compensation as possible from a tornado damage claim. A lawyer can assist you with your claim to maximize your financial recovery.
The sooner you speak to an attorney after a tornado, the more they can do to help you. We have more than a dozen locations throughout Florida and can meet with you as soon as possible to discuss how we could help.
Why Choose Dolman Law Group for Your Tornado Damage Case
There are many tornado damage attorneys to choose from in Florida, but not all attorneys will have the experience or resources to handle your case. You’ll want to hire an attorney who has specific experience handling tornado claims, and who has a track record of successful results. Why do so many people hire Dolman Law Group to represent them with their property damage claims?
Here are a few reasons why:
- How we treat our clients: We firmly believe that people are at the center of every case we take. Our clients are not just numbers or case files to us. We understand that every client has specific needs, and we work hard to meet those needs. Our tornado damage lawyers will treat you with respect, dignity, and courtesy at all times. We will make sure you are aware of every development in your case, and you can contact us at any time if you have questions.
- Our nationwide reputation: We’ve earned a reputation in Florida and throughout the country for providing aggressive advocacy on behalf of our clients. Insurance companies know we take every case seriously and are not afraid to take them to court when necessary. Our reputation gives us an edge when negotiating with insurance companies and helps us provide better representation for our clients.
- Our firm’s resources: Tornado damage claims can be expensive and time-consuming, and you need a law firm with the resources to see your case through to the end. Insurance companies have experienced adjusters and legal teams who handle claims daily. We have the knowledge and experience to help level the playing field. We will use all our skills and resources to help you secure the money you need to rebuild your life after a tornado.
- Our affordable legal services: We understand that hiring a lawyer can be expensive for some people. However, that does not mean you should go without an experienced attorney when you need one. We make our services affordable to everyone by working on a contingency basis. You do not owe us anything until the insurance company cuts a check. We also offer free initial consultations, so there’s no risk in discussing your situation with us in detail.
- Our professional network: Winning a sinkhole case often requires working with experts in several fields. We have many experts who can help with your case, from meteorologists and contractors to economists and medical professionals.
What Your Insurance Covers in a Florida Tornado Damage Claim
The three main things your homeowner’s insurance policy likely covers in the event of a tornado are:
- Structural repairs: Your homeowner’s insurance policy should cover structural damage to your house up to the limits of your policy. As long as the source of the damage is something included in your policy—wind, falling trees, objects colliding with your home, and so on—the insurance company should pay for any necessary repairs. You may also receive compensation to repair outbuildings on your property, such as sheds, fencing, and decks. If a tornado damages your commercial property, your insurance should cover repairs to your roof, broken windows, siding, and other parts of the structure.
- Replacing or repairing damaged personal property: The damage from a tornado often goes beyond the exterior of a structure. Your personal effects, furniture, appliances, and other items might have sustained significant damage from the tornado. Your insurance should cover most damaged property that is not part of a physical structure. The replacement value or the actual cash value of the property will determine what you recover. The replacement value for damaged personal items is usually higher than the cash value, since the cash value takes things like depreciation into account. To maximize your compensation for these losses, you will need a complete inventory of everything damaged and how much it is worth.
- Relocation expenses: If a tornado severely damages your home, you will need to stay somewhere else until either repairs are complete, or you can find a new home. The repair process could take months, significantly adding to your stress and draining your finances. Your insurance policy may cover rent, the cost of a hotel, and other moving expenses. The insurance company may also cover the cost of transportation, basic living needs like toiletries, boarding your pets if necessary, transportation, laundry, and other daily expenses.
Your policy will outline covered expenses and how much the insurance company will pay. Saving all your receipts in one place to easily access them is a good idea if you want to maximize your compensation. You should also speak with an attorney before filing your claim so they can review your case and help you recover as much money as possible.
Other Possible Compensation for Tornado Damage
There are some losses related to tornado damage that your insurance company is less likely to cover. It may be worth pursuing compensation for these losses anyway, though.
You may recover compensation for a few other losses, including:
- Water damage: Since tornadoes form in thunderstorms, it is common for properties to sustain damage from rain if the tornado damages a structure. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), flood insurance does not typically cover this type of damage, but your homeowners or commercial property insurance may cover it. Many Florida homes do not have flood insurance, so this distinction could significantly benefit you.
- Landscape damage: Tornadoes often tear up the landscape when they pass through, and it can be expensive to repair the damage. However, not all insurance policies cover landscape damage. Furthermore, distinguishing between landscape damage and property damage can be difficult. If a tree falls on your house, that is usually considered property damage. But if the same tree falls and tears up your yard without hitting your home, that would be landscape damage. You will still need to remove the tree, but your insurer may not cover the cost. Our attorneys can review your insurance policy to see if it covers landscape damage.
- Vehicle damage: If a tornado damages your car, motorcycle, or personal vehicle, you must file a claim with your auto insurance company to get it fixed or replaced. Unfortunately, some insurance companies do not include coverage for tornadoes and other extreme weather events in their policies. If your auto insurance company is giving you a hard time after you file a claim, speak with an attorney immediately.
The Tornado Damage Insurance Claim Process
If you have not had to file a tornado damage claim or other property damage claim before, the process may feel overwhelming.
To give you some idea of what you are in for, here are the basic steps in a Florida tornado damage claim:
- Document the damage from the tornado: You want to file your damage claim as soon as possible. Otherwise, you may lose your chance at recovering compensation. That said, you need to be thorough before submitting your claim. Take the time to meticulously document every bit of damage to your property and any of your personal belongings. Make a written inventory of your damaged personal effects and use pictures to document structural damage. A written repair estimate from a contractor can help speed up the claim process. Finally, it is a good idea to hire a loss assessor to review the damage before submitting your claim. A loss assessor evaluates damage to your property much like an insurance adjuster does, except they represent you instead of the insurance company. Evidence from a loss assessor can help you make a stronger claim to the insurance company.
- Review your insurance policy: It is always a good idea to review your policy, especially after a tornado damages your home. If you know what your policy does and does not cover, you could save yourself some time when it comes to documenting your losses. Going over your policy with an attorney can help you make a stronger case if the insurance company does not make a fair offer.
- Submit the claim: After reviewing your policy and documenting all your losses, it is time to submit your claim. You want to do this as soon as possible to avoid missing the deadline to recover compensation. Make sure to include all the records of your losses with your claim. We strongly recommend you ask an attorney to review your claim before submitting it so they can help you avoid costly mistakes.
- Meet with the insurance adjuster: No matter how thorough your claim is, the insurance company will not cut you a check without an assessment from an adjuster. Being honest and polite toward the insurance adjuster can be helpful, since being rude or hostile to them will not help your case. An even better move would be to hire a lawyer to handle all of the discussions and negotiations with your insurer for you.
- Wait for the insurance company’s initial offer: The insurer will look at your claim and the adjuster’s report and then make an initial offer. Most of the time, the insurance company’s initial offer is a starting point, not what they are willing to pay. They want to pay out as little as possible for your claim, and if the initial offer is too low, do not be afraid to ask for a better one.
- Open settlement negotiations: If the insurance company’s first offer is too low, you can attempt to negotiate for a better one. You could do this yourself, but you are better off working with a tornado damage lawyer. You may need to gather evidence to support your claim. Working with an attorney is your best bet and convincing the insurance company to make you a better offer.
- Accept the new offer or seek compensation through litigation: At this point, there are two ways your case can end. Hopefully, the insurance company will make you a settlement offer that better meets your needs. If this happens, you will accept the offer, and the insurance company will send you a check, at which point you can start repairs. If the insurance company refuses to negotiate in good faith, your lawyer might advise filing a lawsuit to recover the money you’re entitled to.
Why Insurance Companies Deny Tornado Damage Claims
As a policyholder, you have a right to expect your insurer to pay when you have a valid claim. Unfortunately, insurance companies might deny, delay, or minimize your claim.
Some common reasons for tornado damage claim denials include:
- You missed the filing deadline: Most homeowners and commercial property insurance policies include a deadline by which you have to file your claim. Do not miss this deadline, as doing so may cost you your chance to recover compensation. If you do miss the deadline, hire a lawyer right away. A tornado damage attorney can help you file an appeal and show the insurance company that you have a good reason for missing the deadline.
- You did not pay all your premiums: If you missed some of your premium payments, the insurance company might have dropped your coverage. In this scenario, your best bet is to hire a lawyer to either show that you made all your payments or that you had a good reason for missing them.
- You did not include enough evidence with your claim: You need hard proof of your property damage and other losses from a tornado before the insurance company will approve your claim. The good news is that you can submit additional evidence and ask the insurance company to reconsider your claim. Getting help from a lawyer if the insurance company denies your claim is essential.
- Your policy excludes coverage for certain losses: Even if an insurance company approves your claim, they may not give you the total amount you asked for. The usual reason for this is that your policy does not cover the event. You do not always have to accept the denial, though. It is possible that the insurer made a mistake or is intentionally trying to deny your claim to avoid paying out.
- You failed to mitigate additional damage to your property: Most property insurance policies require you to mitigate further damage after a tornado. Suppose you do not take these appropriate measures to minimize additional damage to your property. In this case, the insurance company may deny your claim or not compensate you for the total value of your losses. If the insurance company denies your claim due to failure to prevent additional damage, a lawyer might be able to show that you did what you could to avoid it.
- You misrepresented the extent of your losses: If the insurance company thinks you lied about or exaggerated the scope of your losses, it will likely deny your claim. The company could also refer you to the police on insurance fraud charges. The last thing you need after a tornado is trouble from the police, so be honest about your losses from the tornado. If an insurance company accuses you of fraud, contact an attorney immediately.
What to Do When a Tornado Damages Your Home
We have already covered the basic steps in the tornado damage claims process.
However, there are some extra measures you can take to protect your rights and maximize your compensation:
- File your claim on time: This may seem obvious, but it is essential to file your claim according to your insurance policy’s deadline. You may still be able to recover compensation if you miss the deadline, but your claim will take much longer, and the process will be much more complicated. Save yourself time, money, and energy by filing your claim on time.
- Be as thorough as possible when documenting your losses: The more supporting evidence you can include with your insurance claim, the higher your chances of recovering maximum compensation. Take lots of pictures, get written repair estimates, hire a loss assessor, and do whatever else you can to substantiate your losses.
- Save all your records: Do not throw away your records after submitting your claim. You may need them later on, or the insurance company may request additional copies of what you have already submitted. Keep all your files in one secure location until your case concludes.
- Do not speculate on what caused the damage: Let the professionals determine what caused the damage to your property. It may be evident to you what happened, but saying the wrong thing could backfire and hurt your claim. Let your lawyer handle communication with the insurance companies to avoid unforced errors.
- Stay off social media: Along similar lines, do not make any social media posts about your case until it is complete. You might want to show pictures of the damage or the repairs in progress, but photos and posts can be taken or used out of context, and you could unintentionally harm your claim. Your best bet is to avoid posting about the damage and your claim until after you’ve resolved it.
- Be respectful and honest: The insurance adjuster is the opposing party with the most influence over your case. You want to stay on their good side. Otherwise, you could create unnecessary headaches for yourself. It is OK to disagree with an insurance adjuster, but remain calm and be polite in all your interactions with them. Similarly, do not lie about or exaggerate your losses to an insurance adjuster, or else you could face fraud charges.
- Be patient: A standard insurance company tactic is to drag a case out as long as possible to force the policyholder to accept less than the required amount for repairs. No matter how frustrated you are, let the process play out.
- Hire a lawyer: Tornado damage claims are often complicated, with extensive damage, costly repairs, and policy language to evaluate and work through. The best thing you can do to maximize your compensation is to hire an experienced tornado damage lawyer to represent you.
Frequently Asked Questions About Florida Tornado Damage Claims
Our clients and prospective clients ask a lot of questions about tornado damage claims, and here are some answers to some of the most common questions we receive:
Will filing a tornado damage claim affect my insurance premiums?
Insurance companies usually raise your premiums if you could have done something to avoid damage to your property. However, tornadoes are beyond anyone’s control. As a result, insurance companies rarely raise rates after tornado damage claims.
What do I do if the insurance company denies my claim?
If your insurance company denies your claim, talk to a lawyer immediately. You have the right to appeal your claim and take the insurance company to court if necessary. However, you may be able to avoid taking the insurance company to court by submitting additional evidence.
Is there a deadline to sue the insurance company if they deny my tornado damage claim?
According to the Florida Statutes, you have five years from the date of loss to file a lawsuit for breach of a property insurance contract. Because it takes time to build a strong case, it’s crucial to hire a lawyer as soon as possible so they’ll have ample time to prepare and file your lawsuit.
How much does it cost to hire a tornado damage lawyer?
Most insurance attorneys, including those at the Dolman Law Group, represent clients on a contingency-fee-basis. This means you will not pay us anything upfront if we take your case. We only get paid when we recover money for you. That way, you can get the qualified legal representation you need without worrying about having to pay for it out of pocket.
Contact Our Florida Tornado Damage Lawyers Now
The Florida personal injury lawyers at the Dolman Law Group have the skills, experience, and resources necessary to handle even the most complex of claims. We provide top-notch representation to homeowners and commercial property owners across the Sunshine State. Call us at (727) 451-6900 or contact us online for a free consultation to discuss tornado damage and how we could help you get the most from your insurance policy.
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