Last year’s hurricane season was the third-most active year in history, with 21 storms causing more than $80 billion in damage. The 2022 hurricane season is still several months away, but it’s never too early to get ready for bad storms. As you think about stocking up on flashlights and sandbags, there’s something else that should be on your radar. If you have to evacuate or experience damage to your home, will your insurance company handle your claim promptly? You pay an insurance premium every year because you expect the company to help you after a catastrophe, but insurance companies don’t always treat you fairly.
If your insurer violates the terms of your insurance policy, you can sue them. That means that an insurance company that doesn’t pay a valid hurricane claim could be held accountable in court. Louisiana has “good faith” requirements for insurance companies, which means they must treat their policyholders fairly. For example, insurers must inspect a property within 30 days of someone filing a claim, and they must pay a claim within 30 days of receiving satisfactory proof of loss.
Even low-strength hurricanes can lead to catastrophic damage. The high winds and storm surges can rip apart homes, destroy power lines, and cause serious flooding. People may not return home for weeks as they wait for repairs. Claimants have the right to speedy reimbursement, but that isn’t always the case. Nearly half of people who survive hurricanes report anxiety symptoms, and repeated back-and-forth conversations with insurance companies exacerbate existing stress.
When Should You Contact an Attorney for a Hurricane Insurance Claim?
Insurers might try to get you to settle for less than you deserve or deny your claim outright. If you encounter pushback from your insurance company after filing a hurricane claim, your first call should be to an experienced hurricane damage lawyer. An insurance adjuster may be sympathetic to your situation, but their employer is their priority. They may undervalue your home and offer a lowball offer or tell you that your claim isn’t covered under your policy. Some insurance companies use outdated calculations when deciding what to provide for repairs and don’t account for increased labor and supply costs. Even the most helpful insurance companies might still not be on your side.
Take Hurricane Ida, the most damaging storm to make landfall in Louisiana since Katrina. Many residents made a choice to evacuate their parishes when it became apparent that Ida would be a Category 4 hurricane. Some of these Louisianians weren’t facing mandatory evacuation orders, so insurers weren’t obligated to cover out-of-town expenses until Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon intervened and ordered companies to pay. It’s easy to expect insurers to do the right thing, but in reality, they don’t always have your best interest at heart.
Knowing best practices for filing an insurance claim can increase your chances of success. Once the dust settles after a hurricane, you’ll look for any potential damage caused by the storm. It’s essential to take pictures and videos of any property damage and file an insurance claim immediately. Keep receipts for any money you spend to replace damaged items or make property repairs, and thoroughly read your insurance policy so you know what benefits you’re entitled to receive.
When discussing your claim with anyone from the insurance company, you should take detailed notes. Keep track of all emails and written correspondence, and ask for a detailed explanation if the insurer denies your claim. After a denial, some insurers will offer vague statements to explain their reasoning. The insurance company may not want to pay the claim, which could mean they’re acting in bad faith.
You don’t have to face an insurance company on your own. Find a lawyer who’s expertly familiar with insurance law, and they’ll advocate for you. The property damage attorneys at Herman, Herman & Katz have helped thousands of Louisianians recover the money they deserve from insurance companies. Click here or call our office directly at (504) 581-4892 for a free case review.