As we enter summer, we know that storm season is far from over. I have received numerous calls in the last several weeks about storm damage from wind or hail. The stories are all fairly similar: a storm causes wind damage or hail damage to their property and the insurance company has failed to properly value their loss. Many of those claims occurred some time ago, and need immediate assistance.
Here are the 5 things that I would tell anyone who has had recent storm damage:
1) PROVIDE IMMEDIATE NOTICE TO THE INSURANCE CARRIER.
Insurance claims are primarily about complying with contractual requirements to make a claim. Every single property insurance contract I have seen, requires the homeowner to make a timely notification to the insurance carrier that has been a loss. The insurance carrier needs notice so that they have the opportunity to investigate your loss and provide you with an estimate of what they believe the value of the loss is.
2) PROVIDE A TIME FOR THE INSURANCE APPRAISER TO INSPECT THE LOSS AND BE PRESENT DURING THE INSPECTION.
Once you have notified the Insurance carrier about the loss you have suffered, the responsibility lies with the carrier to ensure that they investigate your claim. Typically, the insurance company will hire an appraiser to come to the property. You should find a time to allow the appraiser to inspect your property so they can tell you what their value of your loss is. It may seem simple, but if you can be present while the inspection is occurring, you stand a better chance of pointing out each and every area that was damaged.
3) IF YOU QUESTION THE INSURANCE APPRAISER’S VALUE, HIRE YOUR OWN INDEPENDENT APPRAISER FOR A SECOND OPINION.
Once the Insurance carrier has reviewed their own appraisal of your loss, they will provide you with a dollar figure they believe will compensate for your loss. You should not rely strictly upon their appraiser’s opinion because he was hired by the insurance company and represents their interests. That is not to say that his valuation is incorrect per se, but if you feel that the value the insurance company finds is insufficient, you should get a second opinion from an independent appraiser. This will allow you to get a true picture of what the value of the damage was and what the cost will be to make the necessary repairs. A competent independent appraiser can make future litigation much easier.
4) SUBMIT A PROOF OF LOSS WITHIN THE CONTRACTUAL PERIOD.
Once you have a value of the damage that you believe is accurate, either from the insurance appraiser or your own independent appraiser, you must submit a proof of loss. Proof of loss is typically a sworn and signed statement indicating the value of the loss, the areas of your property damaged, and other statements as required under your contract. Again, an insurance claim is a contractual one, and you must comply with the terms of the contract in order to recover if there is a dispute. Nearly every homeowner’s insurance policy requires that a proof of loss be filed within a short time period, sometimes as soon as 60 days after the loss. Failure to submit the necessary estimate of the damage to your property can make future litigation substantially more difficult.
5) HIRE A LAWYER IF YOU CANNOT RESOLVE THE CLAIM PROMPTLY:
The best advice if you get into a dispute with an insurance company regarding the loss you suffered to your property is to contact a lawyer as soon as you believe an agreement will not be reached. There have been countless cases that look promising at first blush, but further investigation reveals that the client waited too long to bring the dispute to our law firm. As a result, their claims are barred. If at any point in the above process you feel the insurance company is not listening to you, or does not wish to resolve your claim without litigation, you should contact an attorney immediately to protect your rights under your homeowner’s policy. We are happy to sit down with you for a free consultation. Just call 24/7 at 855-522-5291.Photo cred: Gino Santa Maria / Shutterstock.com