Hurricane and Property Damage Claim Lawyers Fort Lauderdale
Experienced Attorneys Dedicated to Protecting Clients Rights After Hurricane and Property Damage in Broward County, Palm Beach County, and Across Florida
Here in Florida, we have more than a thousand miles of coastline that make our state a go-to destination for beach trips, fishing, boating, swimming, and just about any other water activity you can think of. However, our coastal exposure also means that when hurricanes hit, a lot of people are negatively impacted. Severe hurricanes claim lives, cause extensive property damage, and even get written into our state history. Bad storms like 1992’s Hurricane Andrew and 2004’s Hurricane Jeanne are still fresh in many Floridians’ minds.
Because hurricane season is a part of life in our state, many people have insurance policies to protect their homes or businesses if they are damaged in a storm. Theoretically, this should be pretty straightforward – individuals purchase insurance, and if their building is damaged in a hurricane, the insurance company assesses the damage and pays the cost of the repairs. You enter into a business contract, and each party is expected to hold up their end of the arrangement.
Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. Sometimes in an attempt to avoid paying out, insurance companies will either deny or delay claims from their policyholders. This can be financially devastating for someone whose home or business has been severely damaged or even completely destroyed in a hurricane. It’s bad enough if you’ve already been through a horrible storm – you shouldn’t have to worry about having a roof over your head as well.
What Happens When a Hurricane Hits
Those who have lived in Florida for a long time may be already familiar with what happens when a hurricane hits land, but those who have only moved here recently might not be as ready for what can occur.
A hurricane is a rotating storm system that can be several hundred miles across and initially forms over the ocean. It converts warm ocean air into strong winds and waves, and when it hits land, it brings that wind and those waves with it. Hurricane winds are often faster than a car traveling on the highway – in fact, Hurricane Andrew brought with it winds gusting between 140-160 miles per hour!
When you pair these high-speed winds with the water that moves inland, it can obviously cause a huge amount of damage to houses and other kinds of Florida property. Common types of property damage resulting from hurricanes includes:
- Broken windows
- Roof torn off a house
- Basement flooding
- Moisture damage, including mold
- Damage from flying projectiles
- Lost shingles
- Damaged tiling
- Siding blown off
- Ruined appliances
- Destroyed garage or porch
The infamous hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, and now Sandy have shown us just how quickly and relentlessly these storms can wipe out not just houses, but entire communities. Financial support is necessary just to keep these devastated areas going after a hurricane, and insurance companies hinder regrowth when they refuse to pay out for claims filed by their policyholders.
Why Might an Insurance Company Deny a Hurricane Damage Claim?
While it would be nice to think that our insurance company has our best interests at heart, the truth is that they are a business and it’s not in their interest to pay for substantial damages if they can find ways to avoid doing so. When your property is damaged and you file a claim, insurance companies will send in adjusters—essentially hired contractors—to assess the “scope of loss” and the cost of repairing a building to the way it was before the storm.
Adjusters come from all over the country and there’s no uniform method that all adjusters use to assess damage; therefore, you might hear completely different cost estimates depending on who comes to look at your house. Oftentimes, these adjusters will give a low estimate, or the insurance company will come up with an excuse for denying the claim. Some common excuses that have been used include:
- “Because this water damage technically occurred after the hurricane, this falls under flood damage instead of hurricane damage and is not covered in the policy.”
- “The building wasn’t up to the current code, and it can only be rebuilt the way it was before.”
- “You lived in unsafe conditions.” (e.g. because you live close to the ocean, the insurer might try to use this as an excuse not to pay out)
- “This damage must have existed before the hurricane and therefore isn’t covered in the policy.”
Hearing this type of statement can be baffling to a business or homeowner who has been paying the monthly premium laid out in their insurance policy. Figuring out what to do next after having a claim denied or getting a low estimate can be difficult. All too often people don’t realize that they can take legal action against their insurance company, or they don’t think they could win. After all, insurance companies are huge organizations that have more experience arguing against paying out than you have arguing in favor of it.
Floridians Shouldn’t Take Bad Faith Insurance Lying Down
The best thing you can do if your insurance company refuses to cover the extent of your hurricane damage is to talk with an experienced hurricane and property damage attorney. The Lawlor, White & Murphey Law Firm has extensive experience serving the South Florida community with hurricane damage insurance claims as well as property and casualty claims. We also serve public adjusters, contractors, and restoration companies who are having difficulty getting paid by an insurance company.
At Lawlor, White & Murphey, a knowledgeable attorney can help you assess the true monetary worth of the damage to your house, sending an independent inspector to investigate, if necessary. We’ll also go over all your interactions with your insurance company to help you determine if the company’s decision was made in bad faith, and if it was, we’ll work to get you the compensation you deserve.
If your home or business was damaged in a South Florida hurricane and your insurance company hasn’t lived up to their contract with you, it’s up to you to hold them accountable and get your building back to what it was before the storm.
To schedule a free consultation with the law firm of Lawlor, White & Murphey, you can either fill out our online contact form here, or call us at your convenience.