What You Should Know About Hurricanes and Your Insurance Policy
Hurricane season just started (June 1st) and residents all across the McAllen metro area and Greater Rio Grande Valley should begin preparing for these potential storms. While the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season forecast has predicted a lower number of storms than historical averages, it is still always in the best interest of homeowners to take the necessary precautions and steps to ensure that they are protected.According to NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division statistics, the U.S. averages one to two hurricane landfalls each year. While these odds may seem to work in your favor, a hurricane, or even tropical storm for that matter, can prove to be a devastating event both emotionally and financially.
At the bad faith insurance law offices of Millin & Millin in McAllen, Texas we believe that the best way to avoid a bad faith insurance claim is to recognize what your rights are and what your insurance does and does not cover. In order to be fully prepared for a disaster, there are a number of elements to consider.
Items to consider before a storm strikes.
- Understand what your homeowners insurance policy covers.
The most important step you can take to ensure that your home is effectively covered is to carefully read through and understand what your policy covers. While this is a simple action, it is often the most neglected.
Understandably, insurance policies are full of technical jargon that can be difficult to understand for those unfamiliar with the language. But, unfortunately, your insurer will not accept this as an excuse. Contact a legal expert with experience in insurance law to help you better understand your coverage. You don’t want a disaster to strike only to find out you weren’t covered.
- Standard homeowners’ insurance generally does not cover flood damage.
One of the most damaging effects of a hurricane or tropical storm is flood damage. Flood water can damage your property, uproot trees, and destroy your house’s interior.
Flood insurance is generally a separate policy that needs to be purchased alongside your traditional coverage. It should be noted, however, that there is a generally a waiting period (30 days) before the policy kicks in.
Waiting until the last moment before a hurricane reaches landfall to purchase this additional insurance rider can mean you will still be responsible for damages caused by flooding.
- Take inventory of your property.
A best practice, you should take a thorough inventory of everything you own and consider whether you have the appropriate coverage in case of the loss of those items. This can help you to identify the value of the items and any potential gaps in your policy.
You should also take pictures of your valuables, and if feasible, record with video. In fact, “touring” your home and video recording it in its current condition – even if the potential for natural disaster is minimal – is a great strategy to stop bad faith insurance.
- Know your deductibles.
An unreasonable deductible can leave you high and dry.
Insurers in coastal areas generally offer separate deductibles for hurricanes and windstorms. Depending on the circumstances of the storm and the various scenarios that can get played out, a high deductible can leave you paying thousands of dollars before the insurance even kicks in.
Have you begun saving for this amount? Or does it make more sense to increase your premium and coverage to lower your deductible?
- Prepare for a storm.
Aside from insurance considerations, you should also take some real world actions in order to limit the amount of damage that can occur to your property and home. Some of the most important steps you can take to protecting your house include:
- Clean your yard: Secure items that can be easily strewn about by high winds and cut down damaged tree branches.
- Secure doors and windows: Add an extra deadbolt to keep your doors closed and utilize plywood to protect your windows.
- Inspect your roof: Check for missing or cracked shingles, as well as loose nails, and fix problem areas.
The types of damage a hurricane or tropical storm can cause.
Hurricane damage can be varied and affect your home and property in a number of ways. Recognizing where there is a high probability of damage can help you to take the proper steps to securing and protecting your house. The following types of damage are frequently caused by hurricanes:
- Roof damage: Roofs take the brunt of damage during a hurricane because of high winds and rain. Certain roof types can catch the wind and be torn from the walls. In instances where roofing materials are unable to withstand the gale winds, water can begin to leak into your home and cause interior roof damage.
- Window damage: High winds can easily launch patio furniture, lawn ornaments, tree branches, as well as uplift trees, and send them crashing into your home and windows.
- Siding and gutter damage: Siding can be damaged by “projectiles” tossed about by hurricane winds which can lead to leaking and water damage within the home. Gutters that are ripped from a home can also cause internal water damage.
- Garage door damage: Garage doors are susceptible to a hurricane’s high winds and can easily be breached. Once broken, winds can cause severe pressure inside the home and cause roof damage and home foundation issues.
- Septic tanks: For individuals living in the rural areas of the Rio Grande Valley, septic tanks can prove to be disastrous during a hurricane. A power outage or issues caused by land flooding can cause the system to break and backup.
What to do after a hurricane.
If you, unfortunately, have to deal with the results of a hurricane, there are a number of steps that you can take after a hurricane to ensure that your insurance claim is properly handled.
- Deal with the damage.
While you should NOT commence fixing the damage yourself, you SHOULD take the reasonable steps necessary to stop further damage to your property. This can include covering up areas where water is leaking in or removing debris from broken windows. Insurers will use anything they can against you to deny a claim and might argue that you caused some of the damage if you do not properly take care of the limiting the situation.
- File a claim immediately.
After a major hurricane, insurance companies are bombarded with calls and claims, and often set deadlines on claimants. Don’t wait to make a claim. This also ensures damage is adequately taken care of in a reasonable amount of time rather than allowing it to continue growing.
- Take notes and document all interactions with insurance agents.
Staying informed and documenting all interactions with your insurance company can help to protect you in the case of bad faith tactics or a claims denial.
Also, just as you should take images of your property and valuables before an event, you should also capture images of the damage after the catastrophe has taken place. These detailed shots (and video when possible) are the perfect evidence to show your insurer.
Let the bad faith insurance lawyers of Millin & Millin protect you and your property from bad faith tactics.
If you are having to file an insurance claim, it’s likely due to the fact that you have just suffered through a terrible event. Having to deal with the unscrupulous tactics of an insurance company is the last thing you need on your plate during this time.
Depend on the responsiveness of the bad faith insurance legal team of Millin & Millin to get you the justice you deserve when seeking your rightful compensation after a natural disaster like a hurricane.
Contact ustoday at (956) 631-5600 to get the legal representation you need. Millin & Millin serves the greater McAllen metro area and the whole Rio Grande Valley.