On February 23 a major tornado barreled across Pensacola and parts of the Florida Panhandle. The winds ripped off roofs and damaged hundreds of homes and businesses. Although better known as a hurricane hotspot, Florida is a top five state for tornado activity. Florida tornadoes tend to be less severe than those that strike the Midwest and Plains states, but as the recent Pensacola twister demonstrates, even a moderate strength tornado can inflict serious damage and test the resolve of the community.
As Florida property owners perhaps know all too well, a major weather event can also test the reliability of insurance companies. Like hurricanes, tornadoes should be covered by a standard homeowners or property insurance policy. But that doesn’t stop some insurers from denying and underpaying claims for legitimate windstorm losses.
Understand Your Policy, Beware the Fine Print
Morgan & Morgan’s expert insurance attorneys have represented thousands of clients in insurance company disputes. We understand the tricks of the insurance trade that allow them to issue denials and pay less than full settlements. While it’s not recommended that you take on the insurance company alone, property owners should educate themselves so that, at the very least, they can spot when their insurer is not holding up their end of the bargain.
First and foremost, it is important that you understand your policy, including what, specifically, is covered, your coverage limits, and your out-of-pocket deductible. For example, your policy might cover fully the cost to repair and rebuild your home, but it may not cover in full your personal belongings. You could also run into problems if you don’t have enough insurance. One study estimates that 64% of U.S. homes are inadequately insured, and that owners are responsible for about 20% of the cost of a rebuild.
Luckily, rebuilding isn’t a major concern after the Pensacola tornado, which caused some significant damage but left buildings intact for the most part. But where owners may hit a snag is with depreciation costs. If you have a replacement cost policy, the insurer should cover the full cost of repairs, with no adjustment for “depreciation.” A cash-value policy, on the other hand, takes into account age-related property depreciation and usually pays out less.
In addition, you may have a separate—and higher—deductible for tornado losses than for other types of losses. A tornado damage deductible could be about 5% of the home’s value, or $10,000 for a property valued at $200,000.
Owners also need to be aware that what they don’t know can hurt them. Aside from the obvious damage, tornadoes can cause subtle property damage such as broken roof sealant strips, missing shingles, uneven floors, and broken plumbing that the insurance company should cover—as long as they’re aware of it. Have an adjuster inspect your property after any tornado—even if you aren’t sure about filing a claim—to ensure that it’s in good shape. And keeps your eyes open in the coming days and weeks for water damage on walls or ceilings, which could indicate undetected roof damage.
Let Us Look at Your Claim Denial For Free
A denied or underpaid claim can be devastating for a policyholder. Many households and businesses subsist on thin financial margins, and an unexpected major expense such as out-of-pocket property repairs can put them in the red. Contact us for your free case evaluation today.