As you prepare to file an insurance claim in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, what you do (& don’t do) can impact the strength and success of your claim. To help you position your upcoming or current Hurricane Harvey claim for success, below are some essential tips that can be integral to protecting your rights and the value of your claim.
Filing a Hurricane Harvey Insurance Claim?
Call (877) 892-2797, Text (281) 612-8024 or Email Our Firm
for Your FREE Case Evaluation
During your FREE consultation, we will review your claim, answer your questions and explain how to proceed. We offer free virtual and mobile consultations to anyone who cannot visit our offices.
Tip 1: Identify & Read Your Policy (or Policies)
It may seem simple, but an important first step is to identify which insurance policies contain applicable coverage for your damages resulting from Hurricane Harvey. For instance:
- If your vehicle was damaged by flood waters or a fallen tree or debris, locate and analyze your automobile insurance policy to determine the scope of coverage and applicable deductibles.
- If the roof of your apartment leaked, locate and analyze your renters’ policy to determine the scope of coverage for water damage to your furniture and/or other possessions.
- If your home was damaged by flood waters, unfortunately, your homeowners’ policy, which is likely to carry the highest amount of coverage, is also likely to contain exclusions for flood damage. However, it could be possible to dispute the exclusion if flooding to your property was caused and/or aggravated by unnatural factors (i.e. controlled reservoir releases, sewer backups, etc.) or water intrusion from an opening caused by wind.
Flood insurance is another option for coverage if you have it. However, estimates reflect that close to 80 percent of the homes flooded by Hurricane Harvey were not covered by an active flood insurance policy. Moreover, many homeowners only have flood insurance if it is required by their mortgage agreement. Therefore, many elect only to obtain minimum coverage under a standard homeowner’s policy.
For business owners, analyzing applicable policies will be more complicated, with potential coverage coming from:
- First-party commercial property insurance, which covers physical damage caused by storms – Unfortunately, though, many of these policies will also contain flood exclusions.
- ”Business interruption” coverage, which can reimburse businesses for lost revenue while they remain closed – For example, Hurricane Harvey resulted in mandatory evacuations, mandatory curfews, intentional power outages, and intentional flooding, all of which could create complications with lost revenue claims.
Tip 2: Provide Prompt Notice
When you analyze your applicable policies, you will find a number of requirements and procedures related to filing a claim: strict adherence with these requirements is imperative.
Following a storm of the magnitude of Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma, there is certain to be a high volume of claims, and there is an obvious incentive for policyholders to “get in line” by filing a claim.
Providing your insurance company prompt notice is also required by many policies, and many insurance companies faced with an unmanageable volume of claims will look for ANY possible excuse to exclude coverage.
The same applies with proof of loss provisions and forms. Any error or oversight on the part of the policyholder in completing a proof of loss form could result in excluded coverage. Some applicable policies may also contain “suit limitation” provisions that alter the time in which you may sue your insurance company for bad faith handling of your claim.
It is important to note and comply with any of these provisions: cooperation on your part makes denying coverage less reasonable.
Tip 3: Document & Keep Everything
It is essential to document proof of the property damage and other financial costs sustained as a result of the storm. Your insurance company may request or require documentation beyond what may seem reasonable, so it is important to be diligent.
Specifically, you can and should:
- Take photos and/or videos of damage as an easy way to collect documentation.
- Keep receipts for any out-of-the-ordinary expenses, such as temporary lodging, meals out, moving expenses, and any repair work done.
- Get multiple estimates for damage repairs to be ensure you are paying a reasonable price if you elect to have a contractor repair any damage before an adjuster makes their visit (and if you want to be fully reimbursed)
- Keep debris from repairs and removals, like removed carpeting, furniture, drywall or other damaged fixtures, as evidence.
Tip 4: Consider Your Specific Situation & Any Applicable Law(s)
The compensation owed to you by your insurance company will depend on the specifics of your policy and the precise way in which the storm caused your damages.
For example, your homeowners’ policy may exclude damage caused by natural flooding but not exclude damage from a sewer back-up or intentional reservoir releases.
Hurricane Harvey presents its own unique legal issues as civil actions like reservoir releases, intentional power outages, mandatory curfews, and mandatory evacuations could all impact coverage under business or personal policies.
Your insurance company also owes you a duty to handle your claim in good-faith, and they are subject to additional penalties for delaying or denying coverage without just cause. While insurance companies are sure to get some leniency and extensions under law in handling the massive number of claims following storms like Harvey or Irma, you are still entitled to fair handling of your claim and should seek legal aid if you feel you are treated unfairly.
Tip 5: Expect to Wait & Keep a Claim Diary
Even policyholders who were first in line to file claims should expect the processing of their claims to take significantly longer than normal. Fortunately, many major insurance companies will assemble specific “catastrophic units” to deal with the high volume of claims following storms on the scale of Harvey and Irma, which helps expedite the process.
Whether intentional or unintentional, insurance companies often engage in a number of delay tactics.
So, keep a log of any and all correspondence with your insurance company. In your log, document:
- The date of each interaction with an adjuster
- The nature of the interaction (e.g., call, email, in-person meeting, property inspection, etc.)
- The name of adjuster involved
- The subject matter(s) discussed.
Having documentation of your diligence in pursuing your claim and any unscrupulous conduct by the insurance company can be highly persuasive in negotiations and/or lawsuits.
Get Exceptional Representation for Your Hurricane Harvey Claim: Contact an Insurance Lawyer at the Amaro Law Firm
An insurance lawyer at the Amaro Law Firm is ready to discuss your Hurricane Harvey claim and help you successfully navigate the complex claims process that lies ahead.
Call (877) 892-2797, text (281) 612-8024 or email our firm for your FREE Consultation. In this meeting, we will answer your questions, address your concerns and explain how to move forward with your claim.
The Amaro Law Firm’s record of superior representation and success in storm and hurricane damage claims has earned us glowing testimonials from former clients, as well as 5-star ratings on Google and Facebook.