Your home is your family’s safe haven. After a big storm, you’ll want to rebuild or repair property damage as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the insurance policies that are supposed to help you protect your most important assets can slow down and complicate this process.
Vague terms and unclear coverage options can leave victims in a tough place after a hurricane. In this blog, we’ll outline four of the most important things you should know about insurance claims after a big storm.
1. Your Homeowner’s Insurance Might Not Offer Cover All Your Hurricane Damage
Homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood damage, including damage from storm surge and some sewer back-ups. Instead, you’ll need to obtain coverage from a private insurer or the NFIP (National Flood Insurance program).
Sadly, many homeowners in Alabama and Mississippi do not have flood insurance. In 2017, the NFIP covered only 119,510 homes in Mississippi and Alabama, even though our coastal population has been steadily growing. In its 2019 Storm Surge Report, CoreLogic estimated:
- In a Category 5 hurricane, 157,803 Alabama and Mississippi homes would suffer storm surge damage.
- Storm surge from a Category 3 storm would harm 89,873 Alabama and Mississippi homes.
Notably, these numbers do not take into account sewer back-ups and other forms of flooding.
You should also take a close look at your homeowner’s policy windstorm coverage. In Alabama and Mississippi, you may need a separate policy that covers windstorms, such as tornados and hurricanes. Many of these policies, including those issued by the Alabama Insurance Underwriting Association (AIUA), set a higher deductible for hurricane-related claims.
2. Document Everything Before and After a Hurricane
When you’re filing a hurricane damage claim, the insurance company will request detailed information about the condition of your home, the repairs you’ve made, and the personal items you lost. If you don’t have a detailed pre-hurricane inventory, receipts associated with emergency repairs, and other evidence, it will difficult to get compensation for your losses.
At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we suggest a two-part documentation process.
Before the Hurricane or Storm
Before hurricane season starts, it’s a good idea to take pictures of your home’s interior and exterior. You should also create a detailed inventory that lists the items within your home and how much you paid for them. If you have receipts or appraisals, it’s a good idea to include copies of them in your inventory.
To keep this information safe, we suggest keeping a copy of these records in a waterproof container or online in a strongly password-protected account.
After the Hurricane or Storm
While the insurance company will probably want to secure your property with tarps, plywood, or other materials, take pictures and videos of the scene before you make emergency repairs. That way, you’ll have documentation of exactly what your home looked like in the aftermath of a hurricane.
If you didn’t take all these steps, don’t panic. However, you will need to carefully reconstruct a home inventory as part of your hurricane damage claim. Your lawyer may be able to guide you through this emotionally difficult process if you feel overwhelmed by the task.
3. You May Get Offered Less Than Your Property’s Full Value
It’s important to remember that your insurer will only pay up to your policy limits. If you decided to buy a barebones homeowner’s insurance policy, you could lose out on valuable compensation. Your policy may also place limits on the amount it will pay for certain types of losses, such as personal items inside your house.
Assessing the value of your claim is never straightforward — your priceless family heirlooms’ worth can be very different to the insurance company than they are to you. Depending on your policy, you may receive either the replacement value or actual cash value (ACV) of your items. An item’s replacement value is the amount it will cost to rebuild or obtain a new version. In contrast, if your insurer pays its ACV, you’ll only get compensated for its pre-storm, depreciated value.
However, insurance companies also try to undervalue assets during a property damage claim. If you think you’re getting an unfair settlement offer, consult with an experienced lawyer.
RELATED ARTICLE: How to Prepare for a Hurricane in Alabama
4. You May Qualify for Federal and State Disaster Relief
In addition to your insurance claims, you may also be eligible for a variety of state and federal disaster relief programs. FEMA and other agencies provide hurricane victims with financial assistance if they’re uninsured or underinsured.
Additionally, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers low-interest, long-term loans to both businesses, homeowners, and renters after a natural disaster. If you’re eligible, you can use these funds to help rebuild or replace your home.
To find out more about these programs, you can visit FEMA’s Disaster Assistance website, a Disaster Recovery Center, or your state’s emergency management agency.
An Alabama Property Damage Lawyer May Help You Rebuild
When you, your family, and your property are harmed by extreme weather or forces of nature, putting your life back together can be a challenge. Unfortunately, the insurance companies may complicate your recovery with red tape and denied claims.
Some common excuses for denied homeowner’s insurance claims include:
- Purchasing the insurance policy shortly before a storm develops in the Gulf of Mexico
- Blaming the damage on factors that pre-existed the storm
- Lack of evidence
- Claiming that it canceled your policy before the date of loss
When the insurance company is trying to limit the amount of compensation you receive, or refuses to help you with your claim, consider contacting an Alabama property damage lawyer.
An experienced property damage lawyer can help you understand the terms of your insurance policy, your claim’s value, and fight on your behalf. At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we’re not afraid to stand up to insurance companies and demand justice for our Gulf Coast neighbors. That’s why we use sophisticated and aggressive tactics to develop and litigate our clients’ claims.
Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys: Fighting for Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coast Storm Victims
At Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys, we have over 50 years of experience handling the toughest property damage claims. The Gulf Coast is our home, and we understand that when hurricanes and other natural disasters destroy our homes, the losses are devastating.
2019 storm surge report. (2019). CoreLogic. Retrieved from https://www.corelogic.com/insights-download/storm-surge-report.aspx
Fact file: Alabama hurricane insurance. (2018, September). Insurance Information Institute. Retrieved from https://www.iii.org/article/fact-file-alabama-hurricane-insurance
Fact file: Mississippi hurricane insurance. (2018, September). Insurance Information Institute. Retrieved from https://www.iii.org/article/fact-file-mississippi-hurricane-insurance
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.