Property Damage and Hurricane Irma — What You Need to Know About Hurricane Insurance Claims

Property Damage and Hurricane Irma — What You Need to Know About Hurricane Insurance Claims

While Tampa Bay was largely spared a direct hit by Hurricane Irma, a lot of property damage did occur.  Hurricane insurance claims will be on the rise. One senior living complex called the Drew Ridge Apartments had its roof blown off, crashing down and damaging four cars.  A satellite dish and even cement blocks were found in the complex’s parking lot.  If you have property damage from a storm in Saint Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Largo, Clearwater or Tampa, read on.

The Affects of Irma

More than 3.3 million homes and businesses lost power throughout the State of Florida as Hurricane Irma kept extending her reach.  The hurricane’s center went about 25 miles northeast of Tampa-St. Petersburg, but by that time, the storm, thankfully, had weakened to a Category 1.

In Hillsborough County, there was a collective sigh of relief that damage wasn’t any worse than it was.  Millions of dollars in damage was done, including trees that were uprooted and fell on at least a dozen homes, but it was less than had been expected.  Wind gusts were strong and were the cause of electrical outages to more than 300,000 homes.

Hurricane Irma Insurance Claims

As was witnessed in the Florida hurricanes of 2004 and 2005, some insurance policies cover storm and wind damage, but not flooding.  Homeowners trying to get coverage for floods had to buy another policy specific to that damage.  Typically, an insurance policy for flood damage does not also cover wind or storm damage; therefore, you have to purchase two homeowners’ insurance policies.  What has happened many times in the past, when you have two policies like this, is that the insurance company will “waffle,” with one saying the type of damage incurred was due to something other than what the policy covered your home for.  Your claim can get “batted back and forth” leaving homeowners feeling like they were in a tennis match. During this “game” insurance companies like to play, to keep from paying a claim, and all the while your expenses do not get reimbursed.  If you don’t have the money to pay upfront to fix the damage, your home will also remain damaged until the day when one insurance company or the other decides to pay, or you call a personal injury attorney.  At times, insurance carriers will then claim that you did not “mitigate” your damages while they adjust your claims. When this happens, call one of our attorneys to help.

Florida Law on Hurricane Insurance Claims

The State of Florida has a requirement that “… insurers issuing residential property insurance policies to include hurricane windstorm coverage …” (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 627.0629[6]).  Hurricane coverage includes “… loss or damage caused by windstorm during a hurricane.  It includes ensuing damage to the interior of a building, or to property inside a building, caused by rain, snow, sleet, hail, sand, or dust if the direct force of the windstorm first damages the building, causing an opening through which rain, snow, sleet, hail, sand, or dust enters and causes damage (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 627.4025[2][a]).  The term “windstorm means wind, wind gusts, hail, rain, tornadoes, or cyclones caused by or resulting from a hurricane that results in direct physical loss or damage to property.  ‘Hurricane’ means a storm system that has been declared to be a hurricane by the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center.”

Many insurance carriers in Florida now have “wind” or “hurricane” deductibles.

Be very cautious about the wording in your insurance policy and do not always take your insurance carrier’s word for how it is to be interpreted!  Oftentimes, insurance carriers will try to settle with their homeowners by patching a spot of damage on floors, cabinets or roofing even though coverage allows the homeowner to replace the whole thing so it all matches.

If a lawsuit is needed to get your loss fully covered, we can often force the insurance carrier to pay for our attorneys’ fees.

If you have property damage questions in St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, Largo, The Beaches, Clearwater, or you are having problems getting an insurance company to pay your claim for property damage, please contact one of our attorneys to see if they can help you make your claim.