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If you own a home, you probably rely on homeowner’s insurance to cover your losses and help you rebuild should your home be damaged or destroyed by a catastrophic weather event such as a tornado or hurricane. Tornados, hurricanes and other storms are completely out of your control, and it seems like this would be an open and shut case, the type of claim that raises few questions. Sadly, insurance companies often try to deny or underpay storm damage claims.
Before hurricane Karina, insurance company tactics and attempts to deny valid claims received very little publicity. Policy holders believed that their coverage was adequate and that insurance companies would pay for storm damage. In reality, insurance companies use several approaches to avoid paying when your home is damaged.
An insurance company may try to deny your claim by claiming that either the damage was not caused entirely by the storm or that some element of the cause of damage is not covered by your policy. For instance, storms may cause water damage which should be covered by your homeowner’s insurance, but the insurance company may try to claim that the water damage is due to subsequent flooding which would not be covered by homeowner’s insurance but by a separate flood policy.
Offering Less Than You Deserve
Rather than outright denying your claim, an insurance company may simply offer you less than what you are entitled to, hoping to avoid a dispute by offering you something. They may offer to pay for part, but not all, of the damage.
When insurance companies delay payment they draw interest on the money that is owed to you. Even if they eventually pay out, they have benefited from your waiting.
Delaying your claim means that not only will the insurance company make money, but your expenses can significantly increase. Your property may incur further damage, such as untreated mold growth and continuing weather damage, due to delayed repairs. Your living expenses while waiting for repairs will be higher. You may miss work or lose business. The delay could even affect you children’s progress in school. Insurance companies also know that if they hold out and make you wait, you are likely to accept a lower offer because you are desperate to receive your much need money.
When an insurance company denies your claim or offers to pay too little, you can dispute their decision. In order to do this effectively you need to be prepared. Here are some things that you can do to help your case:
- Take pictures: Photograph all of the damage.
- Take notes: Write down everything that has happened, including the dates and times of any and all conversations you have had with the insurance company and the results of those discussions.
- Keep receipts for everything: This includes living expenses, such as hotel bills and eating out while you are waiting for your home to be livable again, expenses for repairs which you pay for out of pocket, and any other money that you must spend due to the damage to your home.
- Get an estimate: Talk to a contractor and get an estimate for the cost of repairing your home. Do not rely solely on you insurance company’s estimate.
- Demand an explanation: If the insurance company denies part, or all, of your claim insist that it informs you in writing of the exact wording in your policy upon which it is basing its denial. This not only lets you know what you are up against, but it keeps the insurance company from changing its story later down the road.
If you must take your claim to court, you should be encouraged by the fact that the courts do not look favorably on insurance companies that try to get out of paying valid claims. Recent cases have resulted not only in the payment of claims, but in punitive damages awarded to punish insurance companies for their bad faith.
If your home has been damaged or destroyed by a tornado, hurricane, or any kind of storm, you need legal help, and delay in obtaining legal representation can be harmful to your legal rights and your attorney’s ability to recover damages for you and your family. Please call (407) 712-7300 or contact one of the experienced Orlando, Florida insurance bad faith attorneys at Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter online today to schedule a free consultation. We will evaluate your claim for free, and we will represent you on a contingent fee basis, which means we do not get paid any attorneys’ fees unless you recover on your claim.