Hurricane Laura : Dealing with Insurance


FIRST THINGS FIRST

If you haven’t DOCUMENTED YOUR DAMAGES and NOTIFIED YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY, do this immediately!

TIPS:

1.  Make sure you notify your insurance company, not your agent.

Your agent may answer questions for you or walk you through the process, but talking to them is not the same as putting your insurance company on notice of a claim. Hopefully your agent would tell you this, but with everyone stretched so thin it may have been forgotten.

Hurricane laura insurance claim

2. Document everything. 

Be as thorough as possible. You want to receive credit for absolutely everything you have lost due to the hurricane.

Take plenty of pictures or even video to document your damaged property and belongings.

BUSINESS INTERRUPTION CLAIMS 

During the Inspection

Be an active participant during the inspection. Don’t leave it up to the adjuster to take notice of everything. Remember, the adjuster works for the insurance company, not for you. And your home is just one in a long list of homes they have to evaluate.

  • Point out damage, especially if you aren’t sure the adjuster noticed it. Point out everything - large and small.
  • Make sure the adjuster takes pictures.
  • Ask questions and take notes of what the adjuster tells you. This may be very important later if there is a dispute about your claim.

WHAT IF THE INSURANCE COMPANY DENIES OR LOWBALLS MY CLAIM?

It is not uncommon for insurance companies to offer you far less than what your claim is actually worth. It’s also not uncommon for an insurance company to deny your claim altogether saying that your damage isn’t covered. 

If this happens to you, don’t just take their word for it. They know that most people won’t question or fight them. They know that most people will just assume there is nothing they can do and drop the claim or accept the low offer. If you do this, you may be leaving a lot of money on the table from coverage that you have paid for.

WHAT TO DO IF THEIR OFFER IS TOO LOW

The first offer the insurance company makes will very likely seem unreasonably low considering your amount of damage. 

Sometimes the offer is too low because there has been an error or something has not been calculated. Especially in the case of catastrophes like hurricanes when insurance companies are handling thousands of claims at one time, it’s very easy for something to be overlooked.

But it’s also possible that the insurance company is offering you a lowball number with the hope that you will assume it’s the best you will get.

You do not have to accept it.

If negotiating with the insurance company on your own is not getting you anywhere, you should talk to an attorney. In fact, if you think the insurance company is playing games, it would probably be best to talk to an attorney before you even waste your time trying to negotiate.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CLAIM IS DENIED

If your hurricane damage insurance claim is denied, you should speak to a lawyer. You can go back and forth with the insurance company on your own, but chances are they won’t budge much from their original stance. 

Insurance companies often claim that your policy has exclusions or only covers damage in very specific circumstances. After Hurricane Laura, many insurance companies have claimed that loss of electricity/air conditioning does not make a home "uninhabitable" and therefore does not make homeowners eligible for extra living expenses.

Most of the time, people will take their word for it. After all, this is what they do for a living, so they must know what they are talking about, right? But assuming there is nothing you can do about it is a mistake that can cost you a lot of money.

Many people assume that because they have paid for coverage, their insurance company will come through for them in their time of need and that if the insurance company is saying they aren't covered, that must be the case. Sadly, it is often not until a lawyer gets involved that the insurance companies pay their clients what they are owed from their coverage.

Getting a lawyer does not guarantee that they will pay your claim. It is possible that your policy really did exclude the damage you are claiming. But having a lawyer look at your policy and fight with the insurance company on your behalf is likely your best chance for getting them to reconsider.

Do I need a lawyer to help me with my hurricane claim?

Not always.

If your insurance company is responding to your claim in a timely manner and paying you a fair value for your damages, you can absolutely handle it with your insurance company directly.

However, it would be beneficial to have a lawyer if:

  • You are not hearing back from your insurance company or they have not begun assessing your claim after you notified them.
  • Your insurance company is telling you that your policy doesn't cover some of your damages.
  • Your insurance company is valuing your damages at an unreasonably low number.
  • Your insurance company has denied your claim.

If any of these situations describe how your insurance company is responding, your insurance company could be acting in bad faith. Not could a lawyer potentially force the insurance company to pay you what you are rightfully owed as a policyholder, but your lawyer will argue that your insurance company acted in bad faith and has to pay penalties and attorneys fees. (In other words, your lawyer would argue that your insurance company owes you money on top of your coverage for not treating you fairly.)

Call to Speak to Lawyer about your Hurricane Laura Claim

What is "bad faith"?

Undervaluing claims.

Offering significantly less than the actual value of your damages.

Lack of Communication.

Your insurance company is obligated to respond to your communications in a timely manner and to keep you informed about important updates with your claim.

Unreasonable or Unjustifiable Denial

If your insurance company denies your claim without a justifiable reason or for reasons that go against your policy, it may constitute bad faith.

Misrepresenting the Policy Language

If your insurance company alleges that your damages aren't covered because of made up or fictional exclusions or additions to your policy, it may be an act of bad faith on their part.

Significant Delay in Scheduling Inspection

Your insurance company is obligated to schedule an inspection within a reasonable amount of time from your notice of a claim so that you can start the process of rebuilding.

Refusing to Reinspect

If you believe the inspection was inaccurate or incomplete, you have the right to demand another inspection. On the other hand, if your insurance company demands multiple inspections by a variety of adjusters to delay or prolong the process, this may be considered an act of bad faith.

Unreasonable Requests

Your insurance company will require documentation of your damaged property, but if they are demanding excessive and irrelevant documents, it may be a stall tactic, which could constitute bad faith.

Public Adjuster vs. Attorney

Many people are shocked when they learn from their insurance company that their damage is worth far less than they expected. At this point, policyholders have the option of hiring a public adjuster to evaluate the damage. It's kind of like getting a second opinion. But before you hire a public adjuster, there are some important things you should know...

Public Adjusters

  • Work for you, not your insurance company
  • Usually trained professionals who will evaluate your damages on your behalf, not your insurance company's
  • Often will handle the day-to-day communication with the insurance company.
  • Can dispute the insurance company's assessment of your damages if they find additional or more extensive damage
  • Get paid a portion of your settlement amount from the insurance company (some adjusters offer a "no fee guarantee," meaning that if they are not able to recover more money for you than what your insurance company initially offered, you do not owe them anything. However, some require a percentage of your settlement amount, whether they are able to increase your settlement or not)

A public adjuster cannot...

  • Force the insurance company to follow their report. The insurance company is not required to follow what the public adjuster suggests.
  • Take the insurance company to court. A public adjuster has no legal power to force the insurance company to pay you fairly.

Insurance Attorney

  • Works for you, not your insurance company
  • Can evaluate your policy to determine if your insurance company is considering a loss excluded when it shouldn't be
  • Takes over the daily communication with the insurance company and
  • Also gets paid a percentage of your settlement, not upfront. This means you do not have to pay out-of-pocket to hire an attorney
  • Typically taken more seriously by insurance companies because insurance companies know that attorneys have the power to bring a lawsuit if necessary

An attorney cannot...

  • Guarantee a specific outcome for your case
  • Solicit business by going door-to-door

Making a Business Interruption Claim

If your business insurance policy includes Business Interruption Coverage, you can make a claim for business losses related to Hurricane Laura.

In Louisiana, the most common events that can trigger your Business Interruption Coverage are:

  • Hurricanes
  • Fires
  • Extreme weather

Your Business Interruption coverage is meant to protect you in the event that an unforeseen catastrophe forces your business to close and causes you to lose business or income.

What does my Business Interruption Coverage include?

It depends on your specific policy, but typically, business interruption polices provide coverage for:

  • Income loss from business closure
  • Payroll
  • Temporary relocation expenses
  • Taxes
  • Rent that you lost because of closure

What does it NOT include?

Most Business Interruption policies will exclude the following:

  • Utilities
  • Undocumented income
  • Partial closure
  • Loss of power
  • Lack of Physical Damage
  • Closures related to certain events like viruses

What do I need to make a claim?

You will need your most recent profit and loss statements and employee information to start your claim.

The insurance company will likely ask for more documentation, like your previous years' tax documents, profit and loss statements and other documentation of lost income like future appointments, bookings, etc.

What do I do if it is denied?

It is not uncommon for insurance companies to undervalue insurance claims or deny coverage altogether claiming policy exclusions.

If this happens to you, you have the right to fight back. Contact the attorneys at Blase Inzina Injury Attorneys to review your policy and claim at no cost.