Hurricane Florence Damage Problems – Just Starting

Insurance claims for Hurricane Florence damage are now starting to pour in. Victims remain hopeful that the claims process will go smoothly. They hope they will be paid accurately. However, if the recent past is any indication, these hopes may well be wishful thinking.

Claims before Hurricane Florence damage

Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy claims, now approaching 6 years, leave more than 1,000 claimants/insureds unpaid. Or, just as unfortunately, they have not been paid what would reflect an accurate assessment of their losses. As you may know, many of these insureds have hired their own adjusters at their own expense. Still, even with their adjuster’s reports in hand, the battle continues.

As you certainly recall, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico a year ago. Still many people have no power, no home, no claim payments, and many unanswered questions.

While FEMA advertises on various news networks that they have personnel on the ground that are ready and willing to adjust your claim, they do not tell you what you should do in the event of a claim. They do not suggest that you hire a private adjuster to protect your rights. Be aware they do not advise you to hire a private adjuster to fairly adjust the claim for the value of what was lost or damaged. They want you to rely on the government for fairness and payment.

While I am sure – and have seen firsthand – that some number of claims will be fairly and accurately adjusted, I have also seen that many more claims have problems of fairness and payment. And, the problems last for years. Do you have the resources to outlast the government?

Once the FEMA insurance company adjuster writes their report, and you disagree with the payment amount, the insurance claim problems begin.

Problems you may not have anticipated

Many of the adjusters are typically from out of town, not familiar with the Hurricane Florence damage area. Besides that, the software used to perform these reports are calibrated with different prices for labor, material, and contents specific to their home base, not necessarily the area of impact. Compounding the disparity between locations and their economic differences, there currently is no curve or adjustment of escalated prices resulting from the shortage of material and labor in these hard-hit areas. Besides, it’s harder to come by reputable contractors as the area attracts scammers, fraudulent companies, and unqualified individuals. Beware!! Check out the contractor’s credentials with your state’s department of consumer affairs. Ask to see their state-approved license.

FEMA has changed and incorporated some new rules and regulations since Hurricane Sandy. But I firmly believe that they have not done enough. I think the problems will persist.

My best advice is:

  • Take plenty of pictures of every damaged item, walls, and water lines.
  • Keep every bill for everything.
  • Get estimates.
  • Go online to get content costs of your property.

This is a time-consuming, drawn-out process. Understandably, people want it done quickly. Quickly may not be in your best financial interests. You may have two claims – one with flood insurance and one with your homeowner’s insurance.

What to do next

Considering all the above advice and suggestions, what do you do if they deny your claim or low-ball it?

Speak to the adjuster who came to see your damage. Talk to the insurance company’s inside claims adjuster or their supervisor. That said, prepare yourself with bills and/or estimates and accurate prices. Yelling doesn’t help. Flood insurance and homeowners’ policies have internal appeal procedures within the company. They allow the company to reexamine and review your claim.

Should neither of these procedures provide acceptable results, you have the right to file a complaint with both the Department of Consumer Affairs and the insurance department. But that said, understand that these departments cannot force the insurance company or FEMA to pay your claim, barring some form of fraud or dishonesty.

Always keep in mind that all these procedures are time consuming and require insurance knowledge about your policies. Even if you read and understand them, are you emotionally prepared to deal with them?

Here to help

But I am not here to scare you or attempt to intimidate you into hiring anyone – myself included. But I also do not want anyone to mislead you. However, should you have a question or two about Hurricane Florence damage or some other insurance issue, I will gladly answer them for you at no charge.

You can download the FEMA fact sheet as to the flood claim process.

Read over the ten points listed. Realize that it always says what you should do. Do you have the time, knowledge, or experience to do it all to FEMA’s satisfaction?

Should you have questions, need an adjuster, or insurance expert who is completely familiar with flood insurance and homeowner’s coverage, my firm and I are here to help. Give us a call. Hopefully we can resolve the issue. If you need a lawyer, we can recommend several high-quality, experienced insurance lawyers.

Do not consider this article insurance advice. You should consult a licensed and reputable insurance broker and or insurance adjuster who is familiar with your particular needs.