Hurricane Ian barreled onto the southwest coast of Florida on September 28, 2022. After making landfall, Hurricane Ian headed northeast, passing over the Orlando area before eventually heading back into the Atlantic Ocean. Orange County officials estimate that Hurricane Ian caused over $200 million in damages throughout the county. If your home or property suffered damage during Hurricane Ian, you likely expected your insurance company to reimburse you for the cost of repairs or replacement in a timely manner. If, instead, your insurance company refuses to pay your claim, what can you do?
What Does a Typical Homeowner’s Insurance Policy Cover?
Although every homeowner’s insurance policy is unique, there are some common losses covered in most Florida homeowners’ insurance policies. Along with theft and vandalism, a typical homeowner’s policy covers damage and loss to your home caused by natural disasters such as wind, rain, and fire. Additional structures, both attached and detached, may also be covered. This includes things like an attached garage, a detached shed, or a pool room. “Contents” are also covered, usually as a percentage of the structural coverage limit. Contents coverage refers to your furnishings, clothing, and personal items inside the home, while landscaping items outside the home may also be covered in a separate provision. If damage to your home makes it uninhabitable, your homeowner’s insurance policy will also likely cover living expenses while the home is being repaired, such as the cost of meals and a hotel.
What Does a Typical Homeowner’s Policy Not Cover?
Unfortunately, many homeowners do not realize the exclusions and limitations of their homeowner’s insurance policy until after disaster strikes. Things a typical homeowners insurance policy may not cover include:
Limitations. All insurance policies have coverage limits. These limits reflect the maximum amount of money the insurance company will pay you for a specific type of loss. The coverage limit for your primary structure, for example, should be high enough to cover completely replacing the home. If you have not reviewed your policy lately, however, your coverage limits might not be high enough, causing excess damage to be unreimbursed.
Deductibles. A deductible is an amount you are responsible for covering before your insurance coverage kicks in. In Florida, most homeowner’s insurance policies have a separate deductible that applies to hurricane damage that may be significantly higher than your basic deductible. If so, that deductible amount will not be paid by your insurance company.
Flooding. Losses caused by flood waters are usually covered by a typical homeowner’s insurance policy. To be covered for flood damage, you must purchase separate coverage from your insurance company or from the National Flood Insurance Program. Most Orlando homeowners do not have flood insurance because they do not live in a flood zone; however, Hurricane Ian dropped over a foot of water into the Orlando area, causing widespread flooding in areas that are not considered at risk for flood damage.
Earth movement. Mudslides, sinkholes, and other natural disasters that fall under the category of “earth movement” are also commonly excluded from a basic homeowner’s insurance policy. Given the massive amount of rain that Hurricane Ian brought to Florida, mudslides and sinkholes may have caused damage that is not covered under an insurance policy.
What Can I Do If My Hurricane Ian Claim Has Not Been Paid?
If Hurricane Ian damaged your home or property, and your insurance company has failed to pay your claim in full and within a reasonable time frame, there are some steps you can take. The steps you need to take will depend on things such as the type of claim you filed, and the reason given for underpayment or denial of the claim. Common types of damage claims associated with Hurricane Ian include wind damage, rain and floodwater damage, roof damage, and electrical/fire damage. Steps to take to get the reimbursement to which you are entitled:
Read through your policy. Before you contact your insurance company, take the time to carefully read through your policy. Look for coverage limitations and exclusions that might apply to your claim. Pay particular attention to any hurricane coverage limitations and deductibles. Also, confirm whether you are covered for flood damage through your primary insurer or through a separate policy.
Identify the problem. Insurance companies use a variety of tactics to avoid paying claims or to reduce the amount of money they pay out on a claim. You need to identify the root of the problem before trying to resolve the problem. Common problems with hurricane claims include:
Endless delays. This typically involves an insurance company asking for redundant documentation and unending forms. The hope is that the insured will eventually give up and the insurance company will get out of paying the claim.
Underpayments. Insurance companies prefer to use their own adjusters when estimating the cost of repairs because that allows them to underpay a claim.
Denial of coverage. Your insurance company may try to deny coverage by classifying damage under an exclusion to coverage. This is a frequent problem with hurricane damage claims.
Obtain independent estimates. If your insurance company is offering you less than what you believe the claim is worth, get at least two independent estimates to show what it will actually cost to repair or replace the damaged property.
Dispute an underpayment or denial. If your insurance company has a process by which you can dispute a denial or underpayment, you may consider doing so. Before proceeding with a formal dispute, however, you should consider consulting with an experienced hurricane insurance lawyer to give you the best chance at a successful resolution.
Contact an experienced hurricane insurance lawyer. As soon as it becomes apparent that your claim is not going to be paid in full and in a timely fashion, you should speak to an experienced hurricane insurance lawyer. An attorney can help you negotiate with the insurance company and will be prepared to litigate the dispute if your insurance company still refuses to pay the claim in full.
Get Help from An Experienced Hurricane Insurance Lawyer
If you are having problems getting a Hurricane Ian insurance claim paid, contact an experienced hurricane insurance lawyer at Malik Law P.A. for help. Attorney Malik has the expertise and commitment necessary to help people who have suffered extensive property damage and who are not getting what they are entitled to from their insurance companies.
Call us at 407-537-0226 or submit our online form today. One of our experienced Orlando Hurricane Ian insurance claim lawyers 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.