Hurricanes are powerful storms that can devastate and completely destroy entire towns, ruining family homes and business in their path. Unfortunately, when living in Florida, hurricanes are a frequent occurrence. Over forty percent (40%) of the hurricanes that occur in the United States hit Florida. Hurricane damage costs the government $28 billion annually. The amount of overall damage a hurricane causes varies year to year.
When a hurricane damages your home, your priority is to get it fixed as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, your insurance company’s priority is to pay out the least amount of money as possible for the claim. This puts you in an uncomfortable and unfair position against a large corporation. A hurricane damage lawyer can help you through these trying times.
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Hurricane damage attorneys
HOW MUCH DOES A HURRICANE DAMAGE LAWYER COST?
Hurricane damage lawyer works on a contingency fee basis. This means the attorney does not make any money unless you make a recovery against your insurance company. The hurricane damage attorney will front the costs of your case as well, so you do not pay out of pocket. Furthermore, at Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh, we always attempt negotiate our attorney’s fees separately with the insurance company from your settlement damage. We do this intentionally to provide a better service to you, the client, so that you maximize your recovery settlement.
DOES THE HURRICANE CATEGORY EFFECT YOUR HURRICANE DAMAGE CLAIM?
It can affect your claim indirectly. There are five categories of hurricanes that are defined based upon a hurricane’s sustained wind speed. The National Hurricane Center describe the categories of hurricanes as follows.
Category 1 hurricanes will have sustained wind speeds between 74-95 miles per hour. They produce very dangerous winds and will produce some damage. Even well-built framed homes could have roof damage as well as damage to vinyl siding and gutters. These storms can cause extensive damage to power lines and poles that can result in power outages that can last several days.
Category 2 hurricanes will have sustained wind speeds between 96-110 miles per hour. They can have extremely dangerous winds that will cause extensive damage. Well-built framed homes could have major roof and siding damage. Several shallowly rooted trees will be broken or uprooted and block numerous roads. A near-total power outage is expected and can last from several days to weeks.
Category 3 hurricanes will have sustained wind speeds between 111-129 miles per hour. These hurricanes will cause devastating damage. Well-constructed frame homes can have major damage including removal of roof decking and able ends. Several roads will be blocked with many trees broken or uprooted. Electricity and water will be unavailable from several days to weeks.
Category 4 hurricanes will have sustained wind speeds between 130-156 miles per hour. These hurricanes will cause catastrophic damage. Well-constructed homes can have severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted, and power poles will be downed resulting in the isolation of residential areas. Power outages can last for weeks to months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
Category 5 hurricanes will have sustained wind speeds of 157 miles per hour or greater. These hurricanes will cause catastrophic damage. Homes will have total roof failure and walls will collapse resulting in a high percentage of the destruction of framed homes. Residential areas will be isolated from fallen trees and power poles. Power outages can last for weeks to months.
Whichever category of hurricane strikes, it can leave property damage to your home. As a homeowner, when your home is damaged and needs to be repaired, you just want the repairs made and the damaged fixed. The category of the hurricane does not matter to you after the fact. However, the category of the hurricane can matter to your insurance company. The insurance company may try to argue that you should not be entitled to as much money for repairs because the damage is not related to the hurricane.
The insurance company may try to bolster this argument by stating it was a lesser category of a hurricane and could not have caused this type of damage. This line of thinking and argument is flawed. Hurricanes are unpredictable and the extent and amount of destruction they cause will vary. The category of a storm should not matter. A hurricane damage lawyer can fight for you and overcome this issue.
DO YOU NEED A PUBLIC ADJUSTER OR HURRICANE DAMAGE LAWYER?
Public adjuster can help drive your hurricane damage claim. They can help investigate and validate any damage, estimate the value of losses of personal property, and help negotiate settlements with the insurance company. However, if the negotiations stall with the insurance company or there becomes a coverage issue, you will need a hurricane damage lawyer.
A hurricane damage lawyer can file a lawsuit, whereas a public adjuster cannot. A hurricane damage lawyer can file a breach of contract claim against your insurance company when they do not offer you a monetary settlement for the damage repairs. Additionally, if the insurance company believes there is not coverage for your claim, a hurricane damage lawyer can file what is commonly referred to as a dec action. A dec action is a declaratory judgment action where your attorney requests that a court determine contractual rights of the parties. As in a determination that there is insurance coverage in this situation.
WHAT CAN A HURRICANE DAMAGE LAWYER DO?
In addition to having the ability to file lawsuits described above, a hurricane damage attorney can help you avoid the pitfalls and problems when dealing with an insurance company. An insurance company is looking out for their best interest, which is their money. The less money they pay out, the more money they make.
In order to save money, there are frequent tactics that they employ to save money. These include denying coverage or partially denying coverage, denying your claim or parts of your claim, attempting to lowball you with their settlement offer, or delaying the payment of your claim. In some situations, they will try to write you a check with language that includes full or final payment when you reasonable believe there will be more. A hurricane damage lawyer is well versed in these immoral and unscrupulous strategies and can help you avoid them to maximize your recovery.
CAN YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY WITHHOLD MONEY FROM YOU BECAUSE YOU HAVE NOT AGREED TO SETTLE OUT THE ENTIRE INSURANCE CLAIM?
No. When a there is an undisputed amount, even if it is a partial amount, they should pay as soon as they can.
WHAT IS AN EUO? DO YOU HAVE TO GIVE AN EUO?
An EUO stands for an Examination Under Oath. You are required to give an EUO to your insurance company pursuant to the policy. If you refuse to give one, your insurance company may be able to drop you from coverage. It is important to note that it is under oath, and anything you say may be later used against you. Unfortunately, some EUO are used to either deny a claim or as an attempt to find a reason to deny a claim. If you give inconsistent answers, the insurance company may deny your claim.
EUOs are usually given by the attorneys for your insurance company. When your insurance company has a lawyer representing their interests, you should have a lawyer representing you. A hurricane damage lawyer can help guide you through an EUO and properly advise you to make sure you are properly protected. When you are prepared for an EUO, you will know the questions to expect and how to answer them.
A HURRICANE JUST DAMAGED YOUR HOME, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
The first thing you need to do after the storm has past is to try to limit any damage cause by the storm. For instance, this can include tarping your damaged roof or windows to prevent additional water coming into your home and causing further damage. Your insurance policy includes language that requires you prevent further damage when you can. Your insurance company may try to blame you for the damage and deny your coverage.
Second, you need to document, document, and document some more. Inspect your entire house and take notes on all the damage you observe. Take photographs of everything you observe including both the exterior of the house and the interior. Make sure all the interior rooms in your house are photographed. Take photographs of your personal property that was damaged from the storm, and create an inventory list of all the damaged items.
Third, you need to get your insurance policy and review. Your policy will tell how much coverage your have and how will be able to get your claim paid. Your coverage will be set forth in what is called the “Declarations Page”. If you cannot find your insurance policy, then contact your insurance agent and request a copy. You need to contact your insurance company to promptly notify them of the damage after the storm. This is where it is important to be prepared with your documentation that you completed above. This will help the claim proceed in a timely manner.
WHAT IF YOUR HOUSE IS DESTROYED?
As previously discussed, you need to inform your insurance company immediately. If you house is completely destroyed, you would be entitled to the policy limits even if it cost less than the policy limits to rebuild it. You may be entitled to the policy limits if the damage to your house is fifty percent (50%) of the appraised value.
WHAT EXPENSES WILL YOUR INSURANCE COVER AFTER HURRICANE DAMAGE?
Aside from property damage as a result of the hurricane, your insurance may cover other expenses. These other expenses can vary from policy to policy, but they can include costs that occur when you have to leave your home because it is uninhabitable. These costs can include temporary living expenses (rent), moving costs, costs of utility installation, dining expenses, costs of protecting the unlivable property, pet boarding, and cell phone expenses. You should be entitled to maintain the same standard of living that you had prior to the hurricane damage. However, there are policy limits for these expenses. By speaking to a hurricane damage lawyer, you can learn the limits of your policy on these additional expenses so you do not incur further financial hardship.
WHAT IS YOUR HURRICANE DEDUCTIBLE?
A hurricane deductible is amount you must pay as a portion of the damage cause by a hurricane. The hurricane deductible applies where you home is damaged by a named storm. The amount of the deductible is listed in your policy and is often listed as a percentage of either your policy limits or a percentage of the loss. The deductible must be met before your insurance will begin paying for the damages.
WHY SHOULD YOU HIRE KELLER, MELCHIORRE & WALSH FOR YOUR HURRICANE DAMAGE CLAIM?
We strive to distinguish and separate our firm by offering better service than our competitors. We are able to achieve this because we do a few things differently. First, as described above, on hurricane damage cases we always try to negotiate the attorney’s fees separately from your property damage claim. This will maximize the financial recovery for the client. Second, our firm has a client portal. This enhances and improves the attorney-client relationship and communication. The number one complaint from clients is that they do not regularly communicate with their attorney. Our attorney client portal allows instant access and communication. The client can quickly send their attorney necessary documents for review and leave them messages to accompany them. The portal can also save the clients the time of having to come into the law firm every time they need to drop something off for the attorney. Lastly, our law firm’s flagship location is by the coast in Jupiter, Florida. We recognize the negative impact and horrendous damage hurricanes can cause.
Call us at (561) 295-5825 for a risk-free case evaluation. See how we can help you.