In our line of work, we commonly hear the following concerns (and others) from insureds about making a claim with their insurance company:
- I didn’t make a claim because I don’t think the damages will meet or exceed my hurricane deductible;
- I didn’t make a claim because I can just repair it myself;
- I didn’t make a claim because I did not want my insurance premiums to go up;
- I didn’t make a claim because I did not want my insurance company to cancel me;
- I didn’t make a claim because I was not 100% sure whether I had damage;
It’s understandable that people have reservations about making an insurance claim after a major storm event. In some ways, many of the above-referenced fears are legitimate. In fact many of any of us have been a victim of increased premiums here in Florida, but that can happen whether you have a claim or not. And yes, there is always the risk that you could have your claim denied by your insurance company.
However, if you suspect you have damage after a major storm event, there are many reasons why you may want to make a claim despite many of your fears/reservations. This is because the alternative—not making a claim—could end up being worse in the long run.
Under most homeowner policies here in Florida, once you’re able to establish that the “storm event” or “loss” happened during the policy period, the burden then shifts to the insurance company to prove that the loss was “excluded” from coverage. There are several exclusions that we see raised in disputed storm event claims by insurance companies such as:
- The damage was not storm related, but was instead due to “wear and tear, marring, deterioration” (i.e.– the roof was old and worn out);
- There was not a storm-created opening that caused the damage;
- This damage is not from this storm event that just passed through, it’s clearly “pre-existing damage”
- We can’t pay this claim because you did not provide “prompt notice” to us of the loss.
The two-last bullet points (pre-existing damage and late notice) come up all the time when an insured either fails to report a claim at all or fails to report their claim timely. In the most severe situations, the insurance company can deny your claim altogether based on one of these exclusions.
Is this the end for you? Not necessarily, as an experienced lawyer at Danahy and Dunnavant, P.A. may be able to help you by at least obtaining a second opinion.
However, you might as well report the claim the moment you notice the damage so you don’t have to overcome these potential “pre-existing” and/or “late notice” arguments from your insurance company. Plus the sooner you report it the sooner you might be able to have your claim paid or at least decided on so that you know how to proceed.