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With hurricane season upon us, odds are at least one hurricane will cause massive damage. Insurance policies may, or may not, cover these costs. If the stakes are high, you don't want to risk finding out what is covered, or more painfully, what isn't covered, until it's too late.
To minimize your exposure, consider hiring a lawyer to help guide you through this process. It may be less expensive than you think!
Is My Hurricane Damage Covered at All by Insurance?
This is an excellent question. And the answer is, it depends. In general, natural disasters such as flooding, also called "acts of God", are not covered by standard insurance policies. However, wind damage is. To know what's covered on yours, read it word by word. How can you convince the insurance company that your hurricane damage was caused by winds and not floods? That will probably be determined by the insurance company the very first time you speak with them about your claim. Given that their revenue model depends on high premiums and low payouts, odds are high they will tell you it's flood damage, not covered, end of story. But is this true? Not exactly.
A good attorney has experience working with insurance adjusters, and knows when to be kind, and when to be firm. The attorney will choose his or her words extremely carefully when describing the damage, and knows exactly where the pitfalls are that the insurance company may be trying to lead you into to get the damage declared "not covered." This first interaction truly can determine the outcome of the claim, and if you have any doubts or fears about your ability to handle it well, it's best to get an attorney immediately -- prior to first contact with the insurance company.
What If I Don't Like the Insurance Company's Settlement Offer?
You may have decided to enter the murky waters of hurricane claims on your own, and have been told some losses will be covered. But what if the settlement they offer is lower than you think is fair? The answer is simple -- don't accept it. It is almost guaranteed that their first offer will be purposefully low. Everything is negotiable, and you don't have to accept their first offer, nor use the contractors or estimators they recommend. You can also request mediation or appraisal of your claim by an independent third party.
Do words such as "negotiate" or "mediate" or "appraise" make you uneasy? If so, this is another great time in which to hire an attorney, a seasoned veteran who is very accustomed to telling the insurance companies no, and is also very familiar with all rights and responsibilities under the law.
But How Much Will This Cost Me? I'm Already Worried About Finances!
If you are concerned about the financial burden of hiring an attorney, don't be penny wise and pound foolish. You may very well get more from the insurance company than your legal fees. More importantly, most insurance policies actually cover your legal costs if your attorney is successful, whether in court or through a settlement. And if you've hired the attorney on contingency, you won't have to pay them anything if they don't get you anything.
The insurance company has a team of lawyers working for it to make sure they don't pay you. You should have a team of lawyers working for you too! If you have hurricane damage, or think you are about to experience hurricane damage soon, call an insurance attorney today. They can listen to the facts in your case and read your policy to determine how they might best assist you, and get you the best settlement possible.