Hurricane Irma will certainly go down in the history books all across Caribbean and throughout the southeastern United States as it left devastation in its path. That includes some residents of the Charleston area of South Carolina, who suffered catastrophic flooding thanks to the storm’s immense surge. Irma generated a nearly 10-foot tide, which was one of the largest in 80 years, causing flooding through the historic neighborhoods for the third consecutive year.
With so much destruction in its path, homeowners are now turning to their insurance companies for financial help with rebuilding their losses. However, some people may face resistance from their insurance company, even having their claim outright denied in some situations. When you’re depending on your insurance policy to help you rebuild, this can be devastating and frustrating news. But there is some good news: a Mt. Pleasant property damage attorney can help you hold your insurance company accountable when they mishandle your claim.
Your Rights as a Policy Holder
When you purchase a homeowner’s insurance policy from a company, you are essentially entering into an agreement with them that states you agree to pay a certain cost at a pre-determined renewal period in order to have your home financially backed in the event of a major problem, such as serious damage or theft. The covered instances are usually listed in the policy and are intended to cover a wide range of issues, but you may be surprised what is and is not covered. Make sure you read your policy thoroughly before signing up. It’s actually fairly common for a standard home insurance company to not cover damage caused by flooding; you may need to purchase additional or separate coverage for that.
When you experience a problem and need to file a claim, you have the right to hold your insurance company accountable and make sure your claim is treated properly. If your insurance company fails to do so, they may be acting in “bad faith.” While these instances are rare, they become more frequent when a company becomes inundated with claims, such as those occurring after a natural disaster. However, if you feel as though you’re being treated unfairly, you shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to a Mt. Pleasant property damage attorney.
Some common insurance bad faith practices can include:
- Taking an unnecessarily long time to decide your claim
- Asking an abundance of unnecessary or repeated questions
- Requiring a lot of unnecessary or repeat paperwork
- Denying coverage for things that are covered in the terms of the policy
- Lack of response to repeated requests for information
- Falsely associating damage with a different cause to avoid requirement to pay
Insurance companies are businesses, and the more they have to pay out on claims, the smaller their profit margin. They do their due diligence to ensure any damage that is claimed is legitimately covered before issuing reimbursement payments. However, they can often abuse this ability, leading to false denials and people left wondering where they can turn for help.
Steps You Should Take
If your home has been damaged in the most recent hurricane and floods, there are a few things you should do immediately:
Take lots of pictures. Capture everything that is damaged from as many angles as possible, and make multiple copies of these photos. Submit them with your claim paperwork and keep copies for yourself in multiple locations, including in a cloud-based storage solution if possible. These photos will help support your claim and demonstrate the damage is as you say it is. You should also make a list of all of your possessions that were damaged or destroyed as a result of the damage to your home, including electronics, furniture, and more. Your insurance company will likely request a copy of this list during your claims process.
Make any critical repairs necessary to prevent further damage.
While it’s important to document the condition of your home exactly how it was damaged, not fixing something might actually lead to further damage, and your hesitation to fix this problem may lead to the further damage not being covered. The first thing you should do is make any absolutely vital repairs necessary to prevent your home from being further wrecked by the elements.
Request additional living expenses.
If your home has been so badly damaged that it’s now uninhabitable, you may need to seek temporary residency at a hotel in order to stay safe. If this is the case, let your insurance company know where you will be staying, how to contact you, and request “temporary living expenses.” Believe it or not, your insurance policy may actually include provisions for expenses you incurred because of the losses in your home, such as shelter, food, basic necessities, and even replacement clothing if you need it to continue to work. Bear in mind these are usually paid on a reimbursement basis, so you will likely need to keep your receipts and submit them to cover your claim.
File your claim ASAP
The longer you wait to file your claim, the harder it will be to get appointments with field adjustors and other important individuals. Your claim will be one of many, so it’s not unreasonable to expect a few delays, but waiting doesn’t help your claim go any smoother, especially when it can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months to fully resolve a major home loss claim.
If you feel your claim has been mishandled, contact an experienced attorney for help protecting your rights! Call Lawton Law Firm, LLC today by dialing 843-588-5302 for a free consultation!