As a Florida resident, we are all familiar with hurricanes. We know how destructive the force of nature can be and how devastating the effects can be on homes and families. Oftentimes, the loss of property caused by hurricanes creates an emotional and financial toll that can tremendously burden a family. When the hurricane is gone and the damage is evident, it’s time to file a home insurance claim. But what happens when your insurance company denies your claim? What can you do when the company that was supposed to be there for you in a time of tragedy is woefully insufficient?
Having a homeowners insurance policy that covers flooding and hurricane damage when you live in Florida can make a huge difference after a devastating hurricane or tropical storm. Oftentimes, the increase in your premium is valuable even if it’s just for the peace of mind of knowing you are covered.
But when your insurance company denies your home insurance claim, it can be hard to fully grasp the situation. Why are they denying it? Do they even have a right to deny my claim? Is it supposed to take this long to hear back from them? Is that really all they can offer me?
The hurricane damage lawyers at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can help you through this process and help you to understand your rights and options. We have the experience of thousands of cases and the reputation with insurance companies that can give you the edge you need to get just compensation for your losses. If you have suffered property losses or injury during a hurricane and need help getting proper compensation, contact the attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today.
Understanding Hurricanes and What To Do
A hurricane is a rapidly rotating storm system that is characterized by its circulation, strong winds, and heavy rains. They can be fast moving with strong winds or slow moving with lots of rain and very little wind. If you have lived in Florida long enough, you probably have lived through all kinds of storms. If you just moved here, you will be an expert in no time.
After a hurricane moves through your area–the rain stops and the sun comes out–you can finally assess the damage to your neighborhood and house.
Understanding how devastating a hurricane can be often depends on the category of hurricane that hits your area. Here is a quick breakdown of the five categories of hurricanes.
Category 1 storms have wind gusts that are above 74 mph. They can easily damage roofs, knockout windows, and rip off siding. It is also common for category 1 storms to cause tree branches to fall into homes or into other property. These storms almost always cause some power outages.
Category 2 storms are characterized by winds that are above 96 mph. These storms, with nearly 100 mph winds, can cause serious damage to housing structures, trees, and power lines. All these things can lead to serious damage for homeowners causing everything from structural damage to flooding to fires. It is also possible, as with any category of hurricane, that some people may be injured.
Category 3 storms have winds gusts up to 111 mph and nearly guarantee that wherever they directly hit there will be loss of life and devastating property damage.
Category 4 storms have wind gusts of more than 131 mph and are considered extremely dangerous. Oftentimes, evacuation is necessary for category 4 storms. Damage from these storms can include ripping off the entire roof structure, tearing down entire walls, and throwing whole trees on to homes.
Category 5 storms have wind gusts that are 155 mph or more. This is the highest classification of hurricane. Only a few Category 5 hurricanes have made landfall in the United States. Some of the most recent include Andrew in 1992, Irma in 2017, and Dorian in 2019. Category 5 hurricanes can completely destroy entire homes and entire neighborhoods, turn everyday objects in projectiles, and cover entire cities in flood waters.
Hurricane Strength Compared to Rainfall
Hurricanes strength and what category they are put into is always about the strength of the wind. They do not take into account the amount of rain a storm brings. Hurricanes can bring a few inches to even a few feet of rain in a short period of time. Fast moving storms with strong winds can bring so little rain it feels like an afternoon shower. But slow-moving storms with very little gusts of wind can linger and drop enormous amounts of rain in an area. As you can probably tell, both come with their own type of serious damage potential.
Hurricanes Don’t Just Destroy Property
Hurricanes are most commonly associated with the property damage that they cause, but they also cause injuries to those caught in the storm too. It is not uncommon for thousands of people to be injured after a severe hurricane with anywhere from tens to hundreds of deaths. Of course, a personal injury claim cannot be brought against an insurance carrier if you are injured in a hurricane but there are some situations in which negligence comes into play with hurricane injuries. Take for example Hurricane Irma and the elderly people who died because of the storm. After Irma passed, lot of place were out of power. But one nursing home failed to evacuate its residents after temperatures reached over 100 degrees in the building because of the lack of AC. Other nursing homes have been held responsible when they failed to evacuate citizens prior to a storm and residents were injured or lost their lives from flooding or other hazards. So you can see that hurricanes don’t just cause property damage but they also put people at risk of bodily harm in all types of ways.
What To Do Before a Hurricane
Before a hurricane hits is a good time to get prepared for the inevitable. In Florida, another hurricane will come; you can bet on it. So to prevent being caught off guard, it’s best to prepare for a hurricane.
Start by building or restocking your emergency preparedness items. This should include flashlights, batteries, first aid items, room-stable food items, drinking water, and cash.
Ensure that your vehicle is full of gas and is ready to go. It may even be prudent to pre-pack the car with clothing and needed items just in case you have to evacuate.
Bring in any items that are outdoors like furniture or grills that could easily be blown away or turn into projectiles.
If you have them, it is time to close your storm shutters or board up the windows.
It may also be a good idea to create what some people call a “go bag” which has things in it that can not be easily replaced. This might include passports, important photos, heirlooms, expensive jewelry, and cash. This can come in handy if a hurricane hits and you have to leave unexpectedly. Instead of running around the house looking for grandma’s ring, you have everything in one handy bag.
Finally, take photos and videos of your home and property before the storm. This will act as proof for what condition something was in before the hurricane, and will even prove things like the type of furniture you had or the type of TV.
What To Do During a Hurricane
During a hurricane is obviously when you are at serious risk of bodily danger. While the storm is actually hitting, stay away from the windows and go toward an interior room to wait out the storm.
Begin filling up your bathtub with water that you can use for cleaning and drinking if necessary. Some homes have wells that can stop pumping without electricity. In other cases, some other disruption may prevent your water from working. It’s best to be prepared.
You should also turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting and try not to open them. This will preserve your food if your power goes out.
Pay attention to Twitter or your local news stations website to keep track of the home. Important updates, like a spotted tornado, will most likely be reported online as soon as the information is available.
What To Do After a Hurricane
After a hurricane is passed and there is no more possibility of danger, it’s time to assess the damage.
Start by making sure that there are no downed power lines in your yard. These are often active and caused thousands of injuries every year.
Then, begin assessing the damage to your home. No matter how well you try to protect your property it is likely that there will be some kind of damage. If the storm caused significant damage that is going to require costly repairs then you should follow a few particular steps.
Use a Tarp to Cover Damage
Start by covering up any exposed areas with a waterproof tarp. This will prevent additional water from entering your home and making the damage worse. Insurance companies often try to find any way they can to deny a claim. One of their favorite tricks is to claim that a homeowner did not take proper steps to prevent further damage. If you have missing shingles or a hole in your roof and it is not covered with a tarp when the insurance adjuster arrives you could have further difficulties on your hands.
Begin Documenting Damage
Start by taking photos and video of all the damage that occurred. A good place to begin is on the outside of your home. Take as many photos as possible from as many angles as possible. Get photos of all damage, every angle of the exterior of home, and every angle of the roof. Start by taking wide shots and then move in closer. This will allow easy proof of damage later.
Next, move inside and begin taking photos and video of any damage that occurred there. Again get as many angles as possible and take photos from a wide-angle and move in closer.
Having photographic and video evidence of your damage will be particularly helpful for the next step of the process which is filing a claim with your insurance company.
File a Home Insurance Claim As Soon As Possible
Once everybody is safe and evidence of the damage has been documented, it’s time to notify your insurance company. Insurance policies typically require that you file a home insurance claim within a certain period of time after the storm. Contact your insurance company either by phone or online and begin the process of filing your claim.
If you have issues getting proper compensation for your property damage, it’s time to move to the next step which is to contact a hurricane insurance claim attorney.
Contact a Hurricane Insurance Claim Attorney
If your home insurance claim is being denied, delayed, or you are being lowballed after hurricane damage it’s time to contact a home insurance claim attorney.
The experienced attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can help you to get the compensation that you need to restore your life after a hurricane. Contact us today for a free case evaluation either online or by calling 727-451-6900.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA – Clearwater Office
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
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