As insurance attorneys who have been helping policyholders with their hurricane claims for decades, we get this question a lot, currently from south Floridians whose homes are still damaged from Hurricane Ian:
What if I have unrepaired damage from a prior hurricane and another hurricane strikes?
The thought of another hurricane impacting your already-damaged property is a terrifying thought. But, it has and can happen. At Taylor, Warren, Weidner & Hancock—located in Pensacola, FL—this happened to many of our neighbors, family members, and even to our own homes when Hurricane Ivan devastated Pensacola in 2004, only to be followed by Hurricane Dennis which struck Pensacola again in 2005. Many Pensacola policyholders had damage from Ivan that was still unrepaired when they suffered more damage at the hands of Hurricane Dennis. While we hope this does not happen to anyone in south Florida with damage from Hurricane Ian, here is what we tell clients who come to us with questions about a second hurricane striking and damaging their home further:
#1: Make Sure You Have Insurance In Place
The most important thing you can do if your home suffered damage from a prior hurricane with another hurricane season approaching is ensure you have insurance coverage in place. You want to make sure you have enough coverage and the right types of coverage to protect your home, its surrounding structures, and the personal property inside your home, as well as provide coverage for expenses you may incur if you are displaced from your home because of storm damage. You can read more about different types of insurance coverage here or feel free to contact our office any time for an insurance review so one of our experienced insurance attorneys can answer any questions you may have about your policy or your coverage. We never charge any fee or cost or require any obligation on your part to simply review your policy and answer your coverage questions. It is imperative that you have the right types and the right amount of coverage in place before a second hurricane strikes.
#2: Make Sure You've Hired a Professional to Help With Your First Hurricane Claim
The second most important thing you can do is hire a professional to help with your open claim from the prior hurricane. An experienced attorney can help you negotiate with your insurance company. A professional will also be able to ensure your damages from the first hurricane were properly documented and submitted as part of your insurance claim for the first hurricane. This will ensure any additional or new damages caused by the second hurricane can be identified, differentiated, and separately adjusted by your insurance company. Insurance companies will often try to minimize the damage or—in the case of a second hurricane that causes further damage—attribute the additional damage to the first hurricane in an attempt to deny or limit coverage for the new damage. If you have a professional on board to assist you with your claim you will increase your chances of preventing this from happening to you.
#3: Make Sure You've Documented the Current Condition of Your Home
It is also important that you take time—before a second hurricane forms in the Gulf or strikes your property—to document the current condition of your home, particularly if it remains unrepaired from the first hurricane. Take many photos and videos of your property so that you capture the current status of repairs or damage as it exists before the second hurricane strikes and be sure to save the photos, videos, and other evidence digitally so it is not lost if a second hurricane strikes. Compiling evidence like this will help you protect your claim for new damage as a result of the second hurricane and assist you in proving damage separate from the first hurricane that is new and attributable to the second hurricane.
Proving New Damage from a Second Hurricane Will be Complicated, But It is Not Impossible
Our experienced insurance attorneys at TWWH have been through this process with Hurricanes Ivan and Dennis which struck in 2004 and 2005 respectively. Many of our clients' (as well as our own) homes suffered damage from Hurricane Ivan that was exacerbated by Hurricane Dennis as well as new damage from Hurricane Dennis that had not been caused by Hurricane Ivan. The process of proving the separate damage and recovering fully on the insurance claims from both hurricanes was complicated, but it was not impossible. With professionals who handle insurance claims and deal with insurance companies day in and day out on your side, fighting for your best interest, it can be done. If you have damage from a hurricane and are concerned another hurricane may strike this season causing further damage, let us help. Bringing a professional in to represent your best interest is the best thing you can do to protect your rights, your property, and your insurance claim. We never require any fee, cost, or obligation to simply talk to you about your claim and see how we can help. Contact us.