Each year, Louisiana endures multiple hurricanes that devastate communities throughout the state. The damage to homes, businesses, infrastructure, and the environment can be extensive; high winds topple trees and powerlines, storm surges and heavy rainfall can cause floods, and residents are often left without power and utility services for days or weeks.
Those who live and own businesses in Louisiana must be prepared to navigate before and after a hurricane. There are serious risks of wind and flood damage, not to mention threats to personal health and safety during these storms. Hurricane preparation should include creating an emergency kit, securing property, purchasing adequate property insurance, and knowing what’s needed to make an insurance claim.
But another aspect of being prepared for a hurricane is what needs to be done after the storm passes to ensure you receive the insurance payout you’re entitled to. This is called property damage mitigation.
What is Property Damage Mitigation?
The secondary losses that occur on a property after a hurricane can be just as significant as what it suffers during one. Therefore, every home and business owner needs to know what to do after a Louisiana storm, including what should be done on your property when it’s safe to return.
In essence, property damage mitigation after a hurricane is making temporary repairs that protect and prevent your property and belongings from being further damaged. Mitigating additional property damage is crucial because many insurance companies won’t cover costs that could have been avoided if the homeowner had taken reasonable action to prevent it.
For example, if your roof is damaged from high winds or a fallen tree, securing a tarp to prevent water from leaking into your home is a form of property damage mitigation. Given water damage is costly and dangerous to your health due to mold, it’s vital to reduce the risks of additional losses.
Examples of property damage mitigation after a hurricane:
- Remove water from inside a home (dry out floors and walls with a wet vacuum and fans)
- Cover broken windows and roofs using boards and tarps
- Remove wet furniture*
- Turn off water if a pipe bursts
- Place buckets under leaks you can’t contain
- Clean up unsafe materials that spilled (if you can do it safely)
*When there’s water damage to furniture or other items, they should be removed from the home to prevent mold growth that can cause more damage and pose health risks. However, do not throw anything out. Insurance adjusters need to see proof of ruined items to pay your hurricane damage claim.
How Does Property Mitigation Affect Insurance Policies?
Seeking medical attention after a storm should be your priority if you or a loved one is injured. The next step is to contact your insurance company if your home or business is damaged. Filing a Louisiana hurricane damage insurance claim is a lengthy process, especially since others will be filing claims at the same time. But it’s also important to discuss property damage mitigation expectations with your insurer. If needed, they should be able to refer you to a contractor for help if it’s unsafe and/or requires skills and tools the average person doesn’t have.
Most insurance policies require property owners to mitigate damage after a hurricane or other natural disaster. Even if your policy doesn’t specify this duty, there’s a level of implied responsibility on the homeowner to do what’s reasonable to prevent additional damage.
If you’re unsure what level or type of mitigation needs to be done to ensure your insurance proceeds are maximized and not reduced or outright denied, ask your insurer. Your report of damages will allow them to assess what you can do as you wait for repairs to begin. Make sure to keep all receipts for items purchased for property damage mitigation because many insurance companies reimburse these costs.
If you fail to make reasonable repairs to prevent more damage, such as not boarding up a broken window, and allowing more water inside your home, secondary losses caused by the open window may not be covered. This is especially true if it’s too difficult to distinguish when damages occurred (during the hurricane or after).
But it’s important to note that often, insurance companies unjustly deny claims and don’t pay policyholders what they are entitled to. In fact, many Louisiana homeowners that suffered losses from Hurricane Ida last summer are still waiting for compensation from their insurers. When this happens, you may have grounds to sue an insurance company if your hurricane property damage claim is valid.
Property Damage Mitigation Before & After a Storm
The intensity and number of hurricanes Louisiana experiences on an annual basis have been steadily increasing. In turn, the devastation residents and business owners deal with has grown as well.
Everyone must be prepared for the damages and risks associated with natural disasters. While no one can control the strength of hurricanes and the destruction they cause, most insurance companies require policyholders to mitigate property damage – to an extent – before and after a storm.
Before a hurricane, secure and protect your property as best you can. Board up windows, store or secure loose items that are outside, and trim trees. Have an emergency kit ready, gather important documents and identification, and take photos inside and out. There are even storm mitigation incentives in Louisiana to reward homeowners that reduce the risk of hurricane damage, including tax incentives and insurance premium discounts.
You should also know your home insurance policy inside and out. That way, if you submit a claim and it’s denied, or the payout is less than it should be, you’ll be prepared to take the next step: consulting with an experienced Louisiana hurricane property damage lawyer to discuss your legal options.
After a hurricane, assess your property as soon as it’s safe to do so. Take photos and videos and make a list of damaged or ruined valuables. These will act as evidence in your homeowner’s insurance claim and be compared to the visual evidence and lists you made before the storm.
Your assessment should also identify areas at risk of causing secondary damages if not addressed, which can impact the compensation from your insurer. However, only take reasonable steps to mitigate property damage after a hurricane. Do not do anything unsafe, like go on a roof that looks unstable or is sagging.
When to Contact a Hurricane Damage Attorney
If you live in Louisiana, you should have added wind and water damage insurance to your policy because there are limits and exclusions to what and how much is covered. But even when your home or business is adequately insured, sometimes, insurance companies act in bad faith; your insurer may act unfairly by refusing to pay what they should or denying a claim without just cause.
If your property was damaged by a hurricane in Louisiana and your insurer has denied your claim or reduced your payout, contact the experienced natural disaster attorneys at Herman, Herman & Katz. Our team has helped thousands of clients fight their insurance companies for what they deserve. Contact us online or call 1-844-943-7626 for a free consultation.