We know there are hundreds of homeowners in southern Florida right now who are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. As insurance attorneys who have been helping homeowners with hurricane claims for decades, we know, often the most stressful part of going through a hurricane is dealing with your insurance company in the months after the storm—trying to get updates, submitting evidence and getting no response, confused by the insurance company's estimate or actions and repeated requests for more information. It can be maddening.
But, no matter how frustrated you may be with the process, it is imperative that you continue to follow the process. Most policies require you to keep accurate records of your loss to submit to the insurance company for reimbursement. Being meticulous about documenting your loss and keeping accurate records of mitigation efforts, repairs, lost contents, or additional living expenses will help put you in the best possible position to recover your entire loss.
Keep Accurate Records of the Following:
- A list and copy of all bills incurred for cleaning, water mitigation (think fans, blowers, dehumidifiers, etc.), and any other remediation efforts, including materials, the cost of rental equipment, or any persons or vendors you paid to assist with this.
- A list of any additional living expenses you incur if you have to temporarily move out of your home due to severe damage. Keep all motel and restaurant receipts as well as car rental and/or fuel receipts.
- If you make any temporary repairs—place tarps, nail plywood up, etc.—keep all receipts and documentation from these repairs.
- If you pay for any debris cleanup or removal, or have tree(s) cut down, chopped, and removed, keep your receipts from these expenses.
- If you repair your fencing, perhaps to keep pets or young children safe, keep accurate records and receipts of these repairs.
- If you lost food to spoliation as a result of the storm, take a photo of the contents of your fridge/freezer before throwing the spoiled items away so you can make a list of your food losses later.
- Maintain a list of all actual losses, including furniture, appliances, clothing, paintings, artifacts, and equipment, regardless of your intent to replace the objects. Photographs of ruined homes or objects are excellent evidence for later documentation.
- Try to document the value of each item lost. Bills of sale, canceled checks, charge account records, and insurance evaluations are good evidence. If you have no such records, estimate the value, and give the place and date of purchase.
- Don't forget to list every item individually, including clothing, sports equipment, tools, china, linens, jewelry, art, dishes, rugs, etc.
- Have your list of damaged items and any pictures of the damage ready to submit to your insurance adjuster. The more information you have that document your mitigation efforts, your loss, and your damaged possessions, the faster your claim can be settled.
It is Important That You Work to Protect Your Claim
The more care you take to document your loss and keep abundant, accurate records, the better position you will be in to prove your damages to the insurance company and recover the full value of your claim. Sometimes administrative tasks like these can be hard to remember or focus on in the face of devastated family members, a ruined home, and/or a difficult new living situation but, to the extent possible, it is important to try to keep your insurance claim and your obligations under the policy in mind. If you have any questions about actions you should take after a hurricane or items you should send to your insurance company, never hesitate to contact us. We know this is a frightening, stressful time. That is why we never charge any fee or cost or require any obligation to simply talk to you about your claim and explain your rights.
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