As Floridians close another busy hurricane season and dry out following Tropical Storm Eta, many are facing new questions and concerns as they deal with roof leaks, flooding and a host of other damages following this storm. Even what some may view as a “minor” storm may cause significant damages. We at Cutler Rader attempt to address a few of those questions for you below.

What will your insurance cover if your home or car were damaged in Tropical Storm Eta?

Every tropical system brings with it the potential to damage you home, car and other possessions. Now that the storm has passed and the damage can be seen, Florida homeowners are looking at their insurance policies to see what will be covered and what will not.  This is governed by the insurance policy.. Roof leaks, broken windows and storm flooding that lead to water intrusion in a home, as well as cars that were left outside also suffered damage from debris, water or fallen trees during the high storm winds, may be covered by your insurance policy. Power outages in which food stored in a fridge or freezer spoiled may even be covered.  It is best to have an attorney carefully review the policy to make sure you get the most out of your coverage.

When should a claim be filed?

Generally, following a storm, a homeowner who has suffered damage should file a claim with their insurance company as soon as possible. Starting the process early is extremely important, even if at first you think that you can personally cover the cost of the repairs. Often times, what we think can be a simple repair can be much more complicated and costly than expected.

You should read and review your entire homeowner’s insurance policy before calling to make a claim. Though these policies are often very difficult to fully understand, you should do your best to be aware any endorsements and amendments. Also, take the following steps to preserve your evidence and proof for later:

  • Create a detailed list noting everything lost or damaged to the storm, including personal items
  • Keep a log of the brand name, model, and an accurate description
  • Take photos of the damage to keep with your list and if possible, have a time and date stamp on each image.

When you are ready to call your insurance company to file a claim, be honest in reporting the damage. Remember, you have a right under the Florida and Federal Constitutions to have an attorney report the claim and deal with the insurance company for you if you desire. The adjuster is a trained professional; you are not. As the homeowner is not typically familiar with the way insurance policies are interpreted and how insurance companies value losses, the homeowner will always be at a severe disadvantage.

Is my car covered if it was damaged during the storm?

If your car suffered damage from Tropical Storm Eta, in most circumstances you will be covered under your car insurance if you have purchased comprehensive coverage. This is an optional coverage found in a standard auto insurance policy. Again, it is important to read the policy to be sure coverage applies.

What do I need to know about a hurricane deductible?

A deductible is an amount that you must pay before the insurance company pays out under your policy. Larger deductibles mean smaller premiums which is great when you are paying your monthly bill but can be expensive when you make a claim.

There are two kinds of deductibles for wind damage. The first is a hurricane deductible which only applies to hurricane wind. The second is a windstorm or wind/hail deductible, which would apply to any other kind of wind damage. In Florida, the deductibles for hurricanes are in effect for any damage incurred during the 72-hour period after a hurricane warning has been issued. Each insurer and state applies the deductible differently so it is very important for homeowner’s to read and understand their policy.

According to the Insurance Information Institute:

“Percentage deductibles typically vary from 1 percent of a home’s insured value to 5 percent. In some coastal areas with high wind risk, hurricane deductibles may be higher. The amount that the homeowner will pay depends on the home’s insured value and the “trigger” selected by the insurance company, which determines under what circumstances the deductible applies. In some states, policyholders may have the option of paying a higher premium in return for a traditional dollar deductible, depending on how close to the shore they live. In some high-risk coastal areas, insurers may not give policyholders this option, making the percentage deductible mandatory.”

What about flood damage?  

Homeowner’s insurance does not cover property damage caused by floods. A separate policy typically must be purchased for flood insurance, which will cover damages caused by rising water, accumulation of water and inflow of tidal water, which includes storm surge. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), can provide maximum insurance coverage of $250,000 for the structure of the property and $100,000 for contents. Property and contents must be purchased separately, but may be included in the same policy. Additional coverage may be purchased from private insurers for excess flood insurance.

Flood insurance pay outs for each type of property covered:

Property:  You can opt for replacement cost coverage (the cost to replace the damaged or lost property with new property, without regard to depreciation) if you’re insuring a single-family home that is your primary residence. Available coverage is at least 80% of the full replacement cost of the building (an amount that’s set in advance for your property) or the maximum available under the NFIP.

Contents: Flood insurance pays actual cash value.

What if I need to relocate or stay in a hotel after the storm? Will my insurance cover the cost?

Homeowner’s or rental insurance policies will generally cover the cost of additional living expenses that have been incurred due to the damage to your home.

I don’t have insurance on my property. Now what?

If you do not have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, you may apply for assistance from FEMA. If you need to apply for assistance, click herehttps://www.disasterassistance.gov/

If you have more questions regarding hurricane insurance claims, give us a call for a free consultation today at (954) 913-CASE (2273) or visit us at www.CutlerRader.com.

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