Seek legal advice for your Florida storm damage insurance claim

Involving a lawyer in the insurance claim process early on can be highly beneficial.

According to the National Hurricane Center, hurricane season in the Atlantic region is from June 1 through November 30. As of this writing, Tropical Storm Hermine is doing serious damage in North and Central Florida and could be a threat to Florida residents, depending on its path and strength.

Of course the first priority is physical safety, but after the storm has passed through, home and business owners turn to the difficult job of cleaning up and the often arduous process of filing insurance claims. But filing the claim is just the beginning. Insurers are notorious for underpaying claims for storm damage and having an experienced attorney on your side from the beginning (or whenever you realize things are not going well) is smart.

One of the difficult things about storm damage is that it is so extensive that things can be overlooked. Typical problems include:

  • Damage to roofs
  • Broken windows
  • Water and flood damage
  • Mold and mildew
  • Structural damage to foundations and walls
  • Wind damage
  • Ruined landscaping
  • Damage to trees and from trees and costs of tree removal
  • Hail damage
  • Damaged pools and decks
  • Cracked and smashed concrete, including walkways, parking lots and driveways
  • Electrical damage
  • Mud
  • Personal property
  • And more

A home or business owner should immediately begin taking pictures and videos of damage as well as begin a detailed log of damage. All expenses incurred in securing the property from further damage should be well documented. In addition to the adjuster sent by the insurance company, your lawyer will arrange for your own investigation and appraisal of the damage, bringing in experts when necessary for valuation and repair or replacement estimates.

The more evidence you and your counsel gather, the less likely the insurer will be able to undervalue your claim.

Business owners – whether retail, service, industrial, manufacturing, office, warehouse or other concern of any size – not only need to catalog and evaluate physical damage, but also damage to equipment, machinery, supplies and inventory. It can be crucial to project (with the help of an expert) a solid estimate of the ongoing costs of business operation interruption, including lost income and profits.

For residential claimants, in addition to the physical part of the claim, it is important to carefully document all costs of living elsewhere during repairs, including lodging, food, clothing and transportation.

Your lawyer can assist with forms and documents, and communicate and negotiate with your insurer on your behalf. He or she will know how to document and prove loss; advocate for replacement instead of repair when appropriate; bring a lawsuit when negotiation of a claim is not successful; or fight to reopen a claim if more extensive damage is discovered.

Tampa Bay area attorney K.C. Williams of Williams Law Association, P.A., has extensive experience representing clients in residential, multi-unit housing and commercial hurricane and storm damage insurance matters throughout the state of Florida. He is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law, a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, and has been elected a Super Lawer by his peers.