For anyone affected by Hurricane Michael, know that many people will try to contact you about your damages, for different reasons. Some are simply investigating, while others may be trying to solicit you. It is important to know whether an individual has a financial incentive to contact you after a mass disaster. Please use caution and good judgment when responding to direct contacts from those who want to offer you services right now (contractors, public adjusters, insurance representatives, even attorneys).
It Is Important To Know Who Has a Financial Interest in Contacting You
“It is important for you to determine who has a financial interest in contacting you,” is a message directly from the Florida Bar. As the Florida Bar advises, in its Mass Disaster Consumer Pamphlet, there are numerous individuals and entities who will likely try to contact you following a mass disaster like Hurricane Michael. These may include, but not be limited to, the following:
- Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies
- Fire, rescue, medical and other emergency personnel
- Representatives of the individuals or companies involved in the event
- Representatives of insurance companies that provide coverage for the parties involved in the event
- Lawyers who routinely represent victims of accidents and lawyers who represent and defend the parties involved in a catastrophic event
- Members of the news media
Some May be Simply Investigating; Others May be Soliciting
The Florida Bar offers the following advice concerning contacts after a mass disaster like Hurricane Michael:
If you or a family member has been involved in a mass disaster, individuals from any or all of the above categories may want to speak with you. Preserving your legal rights may depend upon your ability to identify those individuals seeking your attention and to deal with them appropriately. Emotional distress and grief are inevitable after a catastrophic tragedy, and this emotional condition may greatly affect your initial ability to deal with your legal rights. Conversely, the individuals identified in the categories listed previously usually possess extensive training for dealing with a catastrophic disaster of this nature. Do not assume any individual is looking out for your best interests.
It is important for you to determine who has a financial interest in contacting you about this tragedy. A good rule of thumb is to retain a healthy skepticism of anyone who stands to gain financially from your misfortune. For example, police officers or federal aviation inspectors are charged by law to deal with the tragic event; you will probably want to speak freely with them. On the other hand, lawyers may try to solicit you as a client. Or a lawyer may already be representing an insurance carrier providing coverage for one of the parties involved in the catastrophic event. Naturally, your candor with law enforcement personnel or investigatory personnel might not wisely be extended to a lawyer you have never met and whose advice, counsel, or representation you have not sought.
Do Not Sign Any Papers In Connection With a Promise for Money
If an individual, public adjuster, or attorney is asking you to sign papers in exchange for a promise to collect a certain sum of money for you, please do not sign. Be wary of any individual promising any given sum of money. Following a disaster like Hurricane Michael, where the entire extent of your damages is likely far from being fully developed, it would be almost impossible to calculate any particular sum of money you may be entitled to at this early juncture. You have rights. You have the freedom to select who you would like, and if you would like someone, to help you with your insurance claim. Do not feel pressured. And, do not listen to any individual who is telling you there is a time requirement for you to decide and that he or she can get you a certain amount of money. While it is disheartening to know there are many people out there who will try to take advantage of you at a time like this when you are worried and vulnerable, the simple truth is that there are. We want you to be cautious and aware of your rights.
If you have any questions about someone who is contacting you after the storm, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are experienced and trained in handling insurance claims, and we want to help you.