Florida’s homeowners enjoy beautiful weather most of the year; however, during the Atlantic hurricane season homeowners also brace for powerful and potentially destructive storms. If your home or property suffered damage during one of these storms, you understandably expect your homeowner’s insurance company to reimburse you for the full extent of your losses. Sometimes, however, that does not happen. If your storm damage insurance claim is underpaid, there are steps you should take to ensure that the claim is paid in full.
Why Might Your Storm Damage Insurance Claim Be Underpaid?
When you pay your homeowner’s insurance premiums you do so with the understanding that your insurer will fully compensate you for losses should you file a claim. What you may forget is that your insurance company has a vested interest in minimizing claims payouts because the company needs to show a profit each year. With that in mind, your insurance company may justify underpaying your storm damage claim for several reasons, including:
Exclusions apply. Insurance companies often try to claim that some, or all, of the losses reported in a claim fall under an “exclusion” or “limitation” to coverage, reducing the value of the claim.
Insufficient supporting evidence. The insurance company may assert that you failed to provide enough evidence to support the value of your claim.
Low-balling repair costs. The adjuster may have significantly underestimated the true cost of repairs. Remember, the adjuster works for the insurance company.
Failure to mitigate damages. This means they are claiming you made the damages worse by not taking steps to prevent additional damage after the initial storm damage.
Missing forms/documents. Insurance companies inundate claimants with form and document requests. A single missing form/document is often used as the justification for underpaying a claim.
Steps to Take When a Storm Damage Insurance Claim Has Been Underpaid
If your home or property was damaged in a storm, learning that your insurance company has underpaid your claim adds insult to injury. The good news is that the following steps can help you resolve the problem and ensure that your claim is paid in full:
Check your insurance policy. Read through your insurance policy and check for exclusions or limitations to coverage if the underpayment was justified using either of these reasons. Familiarize yourself with those exclusions and limitations and analyze whether the damage you claimed does indeed fall under one of the exclusions or limitations to coverage.
Review how losses were categorized. A storm can result in different types of losses, including damage caused by wind, rain, and falling debris. If your policy excludes certain types of losses, your insurance company may incorrectly categorize damage as that type of loss to avoid covering the loss. For example, your home may have been damaged by mold that was caused by floodwater. The flood damage itself may be excluded, but the mold remediation covered, yet your insurance company excluded all damage.
Gather evidence of the value of your claim. Be prepared to support your contention that the claim was underpaid with evidence. This may include photographs of the damage, receipts for items damaged or destroyed, and/or estimates for repairs/replacement.
Contact your insurance agent. Contact your insurance agent – in writing — and explain why you believe the claim was underpaid. Be sure to attach/include copies of all supporting documentation. Specifically, ask your agent to re-evaluate the claim and the value of your losses.
Consult with an experienced storm damage insurance claim attorney. If all attempts at resolving your underpaid claim with your insurance company fail, it is time to contact an experienced storms damage insurance claim attorney. An attorney can advocate on your behalf both in and out of the courtroom.
Will I Need to File a Lawsuit to Settle My Storm Damage Insurance Claim?
In most cases, your attorney will be able to resolve your underpaid claim without needing to file a lawsuit against the insurance company. If, however, it becomes necessary to pursue litigation, having an experienced attorney on your side means that the lawsuit will be filed within the allowable time frame and that you have an advocate on your side throughout the legal process.
How Much Will a Florida Storm Damage Insurance Claim Attorney Cost?
If your insurance company has underpaid your claim, an experienced storm damage insurance claim attorney will not cost you anything upfront. Your attorney will only be paid if you accept a settlement or are awarded a verdict at trial.
Where Can I Get Help with My Florida Storm Damage Insurance Claim?
If you suffered storm damage and your insurance company has underpaid your claim, call us at 407-500-1000 or submit our online form today. One of our experienced storm damage insurance claims attorneys will explain your rights to you and discuss your legal options at no cost.
Imran Malik, rated AV® Preeminent, by Martindale-Hubbell, is the founding member of Malik Law P.A. An AV® Rating signifies that a lawyer has reached the heights of professional excellence. He has practiced law for a number of years, and is recognized for the highest levels of skill and integrity by fellow attorneys in his area of practice. Martindale-Hubbell is the oldest and most trusted lawyer information service in America.