A hurricane is one of the most destructive forces in nature, with the ability to destroy homes and entire communities in just a few hours. This loss of property, and the emotional toll, can be devastating. Having a homeowners insurance policy may offer some peace of mind if the policy covers hurricane and tropical storm damage, but what if your insurer tries to deny your claim? You could be victimized twice through no fault of your own. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, and are often motivated to deny claims or pay out as little as possible after a hurricane hits. This can leave thousands of property owners — who faithfully paid their premiums every month — without the compensation they need to recover from a disaster.
Don’t let this happen to you.
If you live in an area commonly affected by hurricanes, it’s never too early to make sure your property is secured and your insurance policy is in order. Keep reading to learn how to prepare for a major storm, and how to fight for the compensation you deserve if your property is damaged.
If you’ve been hit by a hurricane and are having trouble getting your insurance claim paid, contact an attorney immediately. Our Morgan & Morgan hurricane insurance recovery group lawyers can help you recover the money you need to put the pieces back together.
The Five Categories of Hurricanes
Hurricanes bring strong winds and heavy rains. After these natural forces move through an inhabited area, it may resemble a war zone. For example, strong winds can leave streets littered with shingles torn off houses, downed power lines, uprooted trees, and mangled traffic signs. The extent of the damage will depend on the strength of the hurricane, which is determined by the storm’s wind speed. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale outlines the category number and the type of damage that should be expected at each level:
Category 1: Storms with wind gusts above 74 miles per hour are considered Category 1 hurricanes, and are strong enough to damage roofs, shingles, vinyl siding, and gutters. Large branches of trees may snap, and shallowly rooted trees may be blown over. There may also be extensive damage to power lines and poles, which can result in power outages.
Category 2: Storms with wind gusts that go above 96 mph are considered Category 2 hurricanes; these storms can cause major roof and siding damage to homes, uproot trees, and severely damage power lines.
Category 3: Storms with wind gusts that go above 111 mph are considered Category 3 hurricanes. These storms can uproot more deeply rooted trees, and almost certainly will knock out electricity and water.
Category 4: Storms with wind gusts of more than 131 mph are considered Category 4 hurricanes, and can severely damage homes, ripping off most of the roof structure and even some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted, and power poles will be downed, which may make it difficult for rescue workers to reach some residential areas.
Category 5: Storms with wind gusts above 155 mph are Category 5, the most dangerous class of hurricanes. Only three Category 5 hurricanes have made landfall in the U.S., with Andrew being the most recent one in 1992. These hurricanes have the power to destroy well-built homes, causing total roof failure and wall collapse, while also toppling more deeply rooted trees, and turning street signs into dangerous projectiles. Hurricanes are also known to bring with them torrential rains that can drop a few inches to several feet of water in just a short period of time. The amount of rain does not have anything to do with the strength of the storm, but rather how fast it is moving. Slow-moving storms linger over an area longer, so more rain falls. Rainfall can be compounded by wind, lightning, and other elements that can destroy cars, flood homes, crack building foundations, and in the most severe situations, lead to people drowning.
Steps to Take Before a Hurricane
Watch this video to learn what you can do to prepare for a hurricane. You can also download our FREE Storm Guide, featuring an interview with a leading hurricane and storm attorney, plus more invaluable content.
Steps to Take After a Hurricane
Unfortunately, even the best attempts to protect one’s property will likely end with some kind of damage in the event of a hurricane. If your home or business is damaged in the storm, make sure you take the following steps to ensure your insurance claim is handled promptly and in a fair manner:
Cover up your damaged property.
If your property sustains any damage, cover it up with a tarp to prevent water intrusion or any other further damage. Remember, the insurance company will cite any reason it can to avoid paying you. If they claim your property became more damaged after the storm, they may blame you for that damage and deny or undervalue your claim.
When taking photos, you should start outside and get your entire house in each shot — all four sides and as much of the roof as you can. Make sure to take photos of your entire yard, too. Start by taking wide shots of the yard, then move in closer to take shots with more detail. Inside, take photos of entire rooms, then of individual items. A complete photographic record is essential for proving losses if you need to file a claim. As you take photographs, keep a detailed written inventory of damaged property. This will also help bolster your claim.
File your insurance claim promptly.
Insurance policies typically require you to act fast after storm damage. This is why it’s paramount that you take photographs, keep a written record, and file your claim as quickly as you can.
Contact a Hurricane Insurance Claim Attorney
If you own a home or business that has suffered hurricane damage, and your insurance company is denying, delaying, or lowballing your claim, contact Morgan & Morgan for a free case evaluation. We are America's largest personal injury law firm, and we have over 30 years' experience taking on insurance companies. Across all our practice areas, we've recovered more than $9 billion for our clients. Best of all, it costs nothing to get started, and we get paid only if we successfully resolve your case. Don't give up just because you heard "No" from your insurance company. Contact us today.