If you own property in Florida, storm damage insurance is essential. The Atlantic hurricane season brings strong winds and heavy rains that wreak havoc on homes and businesses throughout the state. If your property was damaged in a Florida storm, you count on your insurance company to pay the claim you file in full and within a reasonable time frame. What happens, however, if your insurance company fails to fully reimburse you for the damage? Knowing what to do if your storm damage claim was underpaid is the key to getting fully reimbursed by your insurance company.
Why Would My Insurance Company Not Pay My Claim in Full?
Most of us pay our insurance premiums in full and on time under the assumption that if we file a claim, the insurance company will do the same – pay the claim in full and on time. Insurance companies, however, must show a profit each year to remain in business. That means they have a powerful incentive to deny claims or to underpay the claims they do approve. Insurance companies employ several common justifications for failing to pay a storm damage claim in full, including:
- Failure to mitigate damages. Most insurance policies include a provision that requires the property owner to take reasonable steps to prevent additional damage to the property after the property has suffered damage in a storm.
- Documents not submitted. Your insurance company may require a seemingly endless number of documents and forms. Failing to submit a single one can be used as the basis for denying or underpaying a claim.
- Damage falls under an exclusion. An underpayment may be justified by claiming that some damage is excluded from your coverage.
- Lack of evidence. The insurance company may pay less than what you claimed based on a “lack of supporting evidence” to justify the full amount claimed.
- Adjuster underestimated the cost of repairs. Not surprisingly, insurance adjusters frequently underestimate what it will truly cost to repair or replace property damaged in a storm.
What to Do If Your Storm Damage Insurance Claim Was Underpaid
The relief you feel when you receive an insurance check for storm damage to your property is short-lived if the insurance company underpaid your claim. As frustrating as it may be to realize your claim was underpaid, do not despair. Instead, do the following to increase your chances of being paid in full:
- Read your insurance policy carefully. If you have not already done so, read through your insurance policy carefully to check coverage limits and exclusions.
- Analyze the explanation for the underpayment. Pay particular attention to how they categorized the damage. For example, they may have excluded water damage because your policy does not cover “flooding,” but the damage was not caused by floodwaters. Instead, it was caused by powerful winds that damaged your roof, allowing water to enter your home.
- Obtain your own estimates. Knowing that adjusters underestimate the cost of repairs/replacements, take the time to obtain your own independent estimates.
- Dispute the underpayment in writing. Send a letter or email to your insurance agent disputing the underpayment. Include specific reasons why you believe the claim was underpaid and attach photos, receipts, and estimates that support your position.
- Contact an experienced storm damage insurance claim attorney. It is often best to contact an experienced storms damage insurance claim attorney before officially disputing the underpayment. Not only will your dispute be taken seriously, but your attorney will be prepared to negotiate and litigate on your behalf if the insurance company continues to refuse to pay the claim in full.
Will I Need to File a Lawsuit to Settle My Storm Damage Insurance Claim?
Only a small percentage of underpaid insurance claims result in the need to file a lawsuit. Typically, an experienced insurance claims attorney can resolve the underpayment through negotiations with the insurance company. If a lawsuit does need to be filed, however, your attorney will make sure it is filed within the applicable statute of limitations and will aggressively advocate on your behalf throughout the litigation process.
How Much Will a Florida Storm Damage Insurance Claim Attorney Cost?
People often accept less than full reimbursement for storm damages because they believe that hiring an attorney to dispute the underpayment will be too expensive. Do not make that mistake! An experienced storm damage attorney will only be paid if you settle the claim or win at trial. That means there is no upfront cost to you.
Where Can I Get Help with My Florida Storm Damage Insurance Claim?
If you suffered storm damage and your insurance company has underpaid your claim, call us at 407-500-1000 or submit our online form today. One of our experienced storm damage insurance claims attorneys will explain your rights to you and discuss your legal options at no cost.