We know there are hundreds of homeowners in south 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, but getting no response. It is important to know what your obligations are during this time and what all your insurance company can ask for. One tactic we have seen insurance companies using recently is multiple requests to re-inspect your damaged property. Here's what you need to know about the number of inspections your insurance company can request.
You Are Required to Allow Inspections of Your Damaged Property
If you have not already, the best thing you can do before filing an insurance claim is to request a copy of your policy and READ IT. It is imperative that you know, according to your policy, what damage is covered and what may not be covered or may be excluded or limited (meaning you may only be able to recover a certain amount of that damage). You should also look for a Section titled “CONDITIONS” and, within that Section, “Your Duties After Loss.” It is important you know what you are required to do after a claim is filed so that you do not overlook an obligation or miss a deadline that may allow your insurance company to try to deny your claim. You will see in the “Your Duties After Loss” section, you are required to protect your property from further damage, keep records and receipts of these mitigation efforts, and keep records and receipts of temporary repairs. Another key component of your duties after loss is that you allow your insurance company to inspect the damaged property (both your home and its contents). Most insurance policies will require you to do this “as we reasonably require.” Those words are key.
“As We Reasonably Require”
Although it may not feel like it while your insurance company is issuing demand upon demand, making you jump through hoops, their ability to repeatedly inspect your property is limited. Their requests to inspect must be reasonable. In our many years of experience assisting homeowners with hurricane claims, it is most common the property undergoes an initial inspection at the outset of the claim. When this results in a minimal estimate and payment that is not sufficient to repair all the damage (a common outcome), the homeowner often gathers their own estimate from a contractor or public adjuster, and sends that in to the insurance company which often prompts a re-inspection and minimally increased estimate and payment. Two inspections is quite common and likely reasonable if the scope of your estimate and the insurance company's estimate vary greatly, also very common.
It is not uncommon for the insurance company to request a third inspection to be conducted by an engineer. Insurance companies often bring in an engineer when a dispute arises as to what caused the damage, i.e., a peril that is covered by your policy versus one that is not. For example, your windows and doors leak and do not open and shut properly after a storm, but the insurance company is claiming this damage was caused by normal wear and tear, i.e., failed seals over time—the latter being a peril that would not be covered by the policy. Three inspections could be considered reasonable, depending on the circumstances. But, what if your insurance company asks for a fourth or fifth inspection?
What To Do If Your Insurance Company Asks for Four or More Inspections
There may be a point where the insurance company's inspection requests tip from reasonable investigations to a tactic the insurance company is using to try to wear you down and exhaust your patience and ambition to recover the full and fair value of your claim. Depending on the circumstances, a fourth inspection could serve as this tipping point. It may signal you have fulfilled your duties after loss and the insurance company is abusing the policy's post-loss obligations to try to avoid paying your claim.
If you are unsure whether your insurance company has asked for too many inspections, or too many documents or records, you should contact an experienced insurance attorney to review your claim and give you guidance. It may be time to push back and demand your insurance company complete their investigation and give you a decision on your claim. If you feel you have reached this point, our experienced attorneys know what to do, and we never charge any fee or cost or require any obligation to simply review your claim and talk to you about your rights. Contact us.