Storm Damage Lawsuit
Storm Damage Lawsuit
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Storm Damage Lawsuit
Every year in the United States, thousands upon thousands of homes and businesses sustain storm damage. Whether it arises from tornadoes, hurricanes, tropical storms, or severe thunderstorms, this kind of damage can be extraordinarily costly. That's why property owners carry homeowners insurance. However, when some property owners try to use their insurance as intended, they may run into issues such as the denial of a legitimate claim or an unfair settlement that doesn't meet the property owner's actual damages.
Unfortunately, this story is not uncommon. Insurance companies operate so they can make a profit, and paying out on claims cuts into profit. Frequently, policyholders find themselves at odds with their insurance companies' decisions and must consider a storm damage lawsuit to get the relief they've paid for in the event of a catastrophe. Morgan and Morgan can help ensure you get the storm damage coverage you expect.
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How Do Storm Damage Insurance Claims Work?
Nature is unpredictable now, more so than ever, in recorded history. Storm damage is not a matter of if it will happen but of when particularly if you live in a region prone to violent storms. Common storm damage examples that might warrant filing an insurance claim include the following:
- Roof damage
- Broken windows
- Fallen trees
- Fallen gutters
- Damaged siding
- Water damage
- Structural damage
- Busted exterior pipes and vents
- Damage from lightning strikes
- Fire damage
- Flood damage
When your home sustains damage from a storm, filing an insurance claim promptly is crucial. The longer you wait, the more likely you'll run into issues. An insurance adjuster can easily say that the damage resulted from some other incident or that it's worse than it had to be because you delayed getting it addressed.
Look at our guide below for assessing storm damage so you're prepared when filing a claim. Document the damage you see through photos or video, note the date of the storm and save any links to news coverage of the storm in case you need third-party corroboration.
If the storm were widespread and severe, getting a contractor out to your property may be difficult as they'll be in high demand. Nevertheless, try to get a few different estimates from reputable contractors.
Review your homeowner's insurance policy before contacting them, so you're familiar with the process and your rights. Be prepared to submit the evidence of damage and the estimates you obtained to correct the issues.
Wait to begin any repairs, clean-up, or disposal of damaged assets until the insurance company can inspect the property. Changing the condition of your property before an inspection could result in the denial of your claim. If you must make emergency repairs or do a clean-up, contact your insurance provider and ask what kind of documentation is acceptable. Be sure to notate the response, preferably in writing.
Nonetheless, if you're unsure if you'll file a claim, tell the insurance representative that you are making an inquiry, not filing a claim at this time. Simply implying that a claim will be filed can be used to determine if they'll continue coverage when it comes time to renew your policy.
However, your insurance company may expect you to take steps to mitigate further damage. For example, if your roof is damaged, they may expect that you put tarps up. If a window is broken, they may expect it to be boarded up to keep the elements out. Suppose the home has severe damage, and you must vacate the premises. In that case, they may want you to cordon the property off with no trespassing signs, so intrusive onlookers are warned to stay away.
You'll likely be assigned an insurance adjuster who will come and do an onsite inspection. Ideally, your contractor will also act as an advocate to ensure you get a fair assessment. It's in the contractor's best interests to ensure you get a proper assessment. That way, they can do work that is up to top-notch professional standards. However, remember that the insurance adjuster works for the insurance company. Additionally, depending on how big of an impact the storm had on the region, they may be hardpressed for time and under extreme pressure from their employer to minimize damage whenever possible.
Suppose you or your contractor think the insurance company is giving you the shaft. In that case, you may be entitled to file a storm damage lawsuit against your insurance carrier. Morgan and Morgan can advise you when to exercise this option.
When your claim is authorized, you may get two separate checks. One is for repair materials to start the job, and one is to pay for labor once the repair is finished and approved. It's vital that the contractor uses your name and the insurance funds to order and pay for materials. The contractor should not expect payment for their work until the job is inspected and approved.
How Should You Inspect Your Home for Storm Damage?
Serious weather conditions can cause havoc and emotional trauma. When you and your loved ones are potentially in physical danger, the condition of your property takes a second seat. However, once the storm has passed and the chaos has subsided, checking for property damage is essential so you can protect your most expensive asset. Even seemingly minor damage can end up causing costly problems later if not dealt with promptly. Below are indicators of storm damage that every property owner should be aware of so they can take action with their insurance carrier.
Visible debris on the roof - Tree branches and other storm debris on the roof can signal that more substantial impacts may have occurred. Dents, dings, or larger indentations can end up being the source of more significant problems because of water leakage. Another issue to be aware of is granule loss on asphalt shingles. Granules on asphalt shingles not only improve the cosmetic appearance but it helps to protect from water damage and provides UV protection, as well as offering some fire resistance. In cases of extreme wind and rain, granule loss is possible. When a roof shingle is damaged or missing, moisture can seep into other roof layers, resulting in significant expenses.
Search for missing or broken roof shingles - Most of us are not roofing experts. However, it's important to understand that if a single shingle is missing, cracked, or slipped from its proper place, it can still cause water damage.
Look at the chimney and eve flashing, snow guards, gutters, and other rooftop components - If metal flashing comes loose, this could create an entrance for water to seep into your home. If the gutters are blocked or loose, this could indicate water didn't drain properly. Standing pools of water can lead to a weakened structure. Broken attic fans can lead to moisture build-up, which can ruin belongings and cause damage to your home.
Check for water stains on exterior and interior walls - Over time, it's not unusual for a home to develop small cracks in the walls, which can be a route for water to get in. Check the walls for damp areas right after the storm and in a few days to ensure the water has evaporated.
Check exterior walls for dents or holes - You can identify hurricane damage to your property's external walls by the telltale spider-web pattern that expands from a central point of debris impact. A substantial impact that creates a spider-web crack can affect your property's insulation. Even minor problems, such as missing stucco or chips in paint and plaster, can indicate storm damage that can cause issues now and later.
Examine windows thoroughly - You might think window damage would be apparent. Still, minor fractures can expand and be a more significant problem later. Check to see if window ledges and crevices have collected any water. Additionally, check window frames for damage, such as dents or cracks, as loose window frames can release a cascade of broken glass unexpectedly in the future.
Check soffits located on the underside of parts of your home - Soffits are typically located on the bottom of eaves that run from the outside wall to the outer edge of the roof. Any damage, such as dents, could indicate an underlying problem.
Remember to check sheds, barns, and fencing - Any outbuilding should be investigated for damage similar as explained previously, including walls, windows, and roofing. Likewise, the walls or fencing surrounding the perimeter of your property should be examined for damaged or missing posts, panels, surfacing, or toppled blocks.
Investigate trees or other large vegetation - Even if your trees didn't get uprooted by the storm, branches or the trunk may still have incurred damage that could end up harming people or property during the next strong gust of wind. Likewise, if you have other tall vegetation that could topple over, such as a saguaro or other giant cacti, check to see if the storm caused it to lean to one side. This is a sign that it will fall over soon.
Investigate crawl spaces for water - Finally, check to see if you have a drainage problem. It's essential to address this quickly, as pooling water can cause mold, rot, and other structural issues down the line.
What if my insurance company raises my rates after a storm damage claim?
Many people worry about filing an insurance claim because of potential rate hikes. While an insurance company might be able to drop you for excessive claims, most states have laws governing when they can raise rates. Storm damage is generally thought to be an "act of God." Therefore, an insurance company cannot raise your rates simply because you used your coverage. If they raise your rates, they must raise everyone's rates in the region. You can't legally be singled out. Suppose you believe you have been unfairly targeted for a rate increase. In that case, Morgan and Morgan can help you file a formal complaint to the insurance regulators in your state.
What Happens if My Storm Damage Claim Is Denied or I'm Offered a Lowball Settlement?
Many times, storm damage claims are denied by error, either your mistake or theirs. It could be as simple as missing documentation. However, you should be given a formal explanation of why the claim was denied. This should be backed up with the specific language of your policy that justifies the denial. We understand that insurance contracts can be challenging to interpret, or you may have a different understanding of what is covered under your policy. Still, there are legitimate reasons for denial, such as unpaid premiums or the specific type of damage being excluded explicitly.
Suppose you still need to understand why your claim was denied after reviewing your policy and the reasons for the denial. In that case, you should contact Morgan and Morgan. We can help negotiate on your behalf. If that doesn't work and we believe there are grounds, we can help you file a storm damage lawsuit against your insurance company for breach of contract.
Still, the first step is to file an appeal. Be aware of the timeline for this procedure. You'll typically have a defined timeframe in which to do this. You must follow their guidelines for this process. If you need clarification on this, talk to your insurance representative. When you file an appeal, your denied claim should be reviewed. It's helpful to have legal representation when doing this, as you'll need to provide additional or more substantial evidence as to why the claim should be covered.
We may recommend hiring a public insurance adjuster that can independently document and place a value on your property damage and losses.
Suppose you are a policyholder with your premiums paid up and coverage for the storm damage to your property implied in your policy. In that case, there is no legitimate reason for your claim to be denied or for them to give you an inadequate settlement. When you're being unfairly treated by an insurance company, Morgan and Morgan can champion your cause and ensure you get the funds you need to repair your property up to professional standards. A storm damage lawsuit may be the correct remedy.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation.