Almost every time we speak to a new client regarding their hail damage insurance claim, our clients tell us that the insurance company representative told them some variation of one or more of the below statements.  Unfortunately, insurance company adjusters have a habit of trying to convince property owners that they have “no business” filing legitimate hail damage claims, and even try to convince the hapless homeowners to drop their claims.  We’ve put together the below list of insurance company representations and have pointed out the truth underlying these misstatements

If You Have Questions Regarding Your Hail Damage Claim – Call (800) 451-6786 for Immediate Help.

1.  “Since you don’t have much damage, you shouldn’t file a claim” – In reality, if you have any damage whatsoever from a covered cause of loss, you have the absolute right to place a claim with your insurance company for the repair of this damage.  Moreover, even if the damage to your roof may not seem severe at the moment, if left un-repaired, it may eventually lead to additional leaks and problems down the road – which could end up costing substantially more to repair.  Better to get the repairs taken care of immediately so that additional subsequent damage can be avoided.

2.  “If you file a claim, your insurance company will cancel your policy” – In fact, most states have laws which specifically prohibit insurance companies from cancelling a policy solely because of the insured’s placement of a claim.  Not only is the insurance company prohibited from taking this action, the insurance company might be exposing itself to a claim for bad faith claims handling as well.

3.  “Since it doesn’t look like you’ve lost any roof shingles, you must not have any hail damage.” –  This is one of the most common statements, and is really a total misdirection.  Missing shingles are usually related to wind damage claims (hurricanes, tropical storms, etc.), and are not an absolute indicator of hail related damage.  A roof may be substantially damaged by hail, even though the actual shingles appear to still be in place after the storm.   Furthermore, the damage may not cause leaking until well after the storm.  Therefore, it is crucial to have a qualified expert examine your roof after a storm to fully evaluate the damage to your property.

4.  “If you file a claim, your insurance rates will go up.”  Let’s be honest, if a storm or other large weather event comes through your area, the insurance company is going to raise everyone’s rates anyway.  So if your insurance premiums go up and you are the only person on your block who didn’t file a claim, your increased premium dollars will just be used for paying everyone else’s claims and not yours.

5.  “You should place a claim with your manufacturer’s warranty/home builder/building contractor for this damage.”  – The reality is that most manufacturer’s warranties specifically exclude damage caused to your roofing shingles by hail.  Furthermore, home builders and contractors will only be liable for faulty workmanship or failure of the products and services they provided as part of the scope of their employment.  Absent some specific (and hard to imagine) language in a home builder’s contract that states that the builder agrees to be liable for acts of nature which occur after the home is built, there would be no cause of action against the building contractor for hail damage.

6.  “Since you didn’t notify us immediately after the hail incident, you cannot make a claim.” – Although there may be various limitations under law or in your policy which govern the time frame within which you must place your claim, such limitations usually allow ample time to make your claim and do not mandate that your claim is automatically barred if you didn’t notify the insurance company the day after the event.  Although it is important to consult with a legal professional as to what limitations may exist in your policy or under the laws of your state, the process recognizes that it may take a while to fully become aware of the damage and to notify your insurance company of same.

Always keep in mind that the individual the insurance company sends to initially inspect your damage is either an employee of the insurance company or an outside adjuster who relies upon the insurance company for his standard of living.  Although usually these representatives do their best to honor the insurance company’s obligations to you, do yourself a favor and never forget who butters this person’s bread.

If you have any doubts about whether you are getting a fair shake from your insurance company, please call (800) 451-6786 for a Free and Immediate Consultation regarding your rights.

 

It may come as a surprise to many homeowners, but you may be able to substantially reduce your homeowner’s property insurance premiums by just looking through the provisions of your policy.  Specifically, most homeowner’s insurance policies set forth numerous premium “credits” for which you can qualify based upon the age and condition of your home.  These available credits are usually listed in the documents you receive along with your annual policy renewal – you know, the stuff you never read and immediately throw away.

For instance, you may be entitled to a substantial premium discount if your roof has wind mitigation straps.  These straps literally “tie” your roof to your exterior walls and may help avoid the structural failure of your roof and walls during a high wind event.  If your home was built after 2002 or if your roof has been recently replaced, your home most likely has these straps as the use of such was mandated after the building code was amended in 2002.  You should hire a wind mitigation specialist to do an inspection and to determine whether your roof has these wind mitigation straps and whether you qualify for any other premium discounts.  These inspections usually cost between $75.00 to $100.00 – a small investment considering the reduction in premiums you may be able to obtain.

As with many things, the devil is in the details, and this process will require that you take the time to read the onerous and often-times purposefully confusing provisions of your insurance policy – but you may be able to save several hundred dollars (every year!) in homeowner’s insurance premiums.  Better in your pocket than in your insurance company’s wallet!  As always, should you have any questions regarding your insurance policy, please feel free to give our office a call.

An essential part of hurricane preparation is having a plan for your family long before a storm arrives.  Once the storm arrives, it is too late to start thinking about contingencies and making plans for your family’s safety.  Your basic plan can be re-used each year, but make sure to review your plan each year and make any updates necessary.

Although every family’s hurricane preparation plan will be different, here are some recommendations to help better prepare for a storm:

– Know ahead of time if you will evacuate and if so, where you will go if you do evacuate.  Be familiar with evacuation routes and stay connected to local news broadcasts for the latest tropical storm information.

– Have supplies ready to go, or if you plan to stay and weather the storm, make sure your home is well stocked with enough hurricane supplies to get you through the storm and the aftermath.

– If you are going to evacuate, make sure you have any important papers – like home insurance documents, medical insurance cards and prescription medications.

– Make sure you have plenty of cash on hand and that your car has a full tank of gas.  If the power goes out for any extended period of time, you may not be able to access ATMs or re-fill your car’s gas tank.

– Make sure to pack all necessary clothes for the time you believe you may be away from your home, as well has personal hygiene products, cell phone chargers, and a list of any important telephone numbers you think you may need.

– Make sure that all of your family members have a designated contact person (outside the area affected by the storm) to make contact with after the storm.

It should only take a few minutes to make a hurricane preparation plan, but having a plan will provide peace of mind once the storm hits and may help protect the safety of your family.  If you have any questions about how to protect your family or property from storm damage, please feel free to contact us and we will do our best to assist you and to answer any questions you may have.

 

Now that the hurricane season has officially begun, the prevention of wind damage should be on the forefront of every Floridian’s mind.  Although there is nothing we can do to prevent hurricanes or other storms from occurring, there are steps we can take to minimize the damage these storms cause to our homes and property.

The first step is to inspect your roof for any loose, damaged or missing shingles.   This pre-existing damage makes your roof more susceptible to damage once the storm winds begin.  While inspecting your roof, also check your attic for swollen wood or moisture that could indicate a leak in the roof.  Also check your windows and doors for maintenance issues and verify that the caulking to your windows and door jambs is in good condition.  These simple steps could save you thousands of dollars in damage repairs once the wind begins to blow and water starts looking for a way to get into your house and cause damage.

You should also check your property for dangerous looking limbs and branches.  Wind is Mother Nature’s way of pruning, so check trees on your property for potential hazards.  If any limbs are hanging over your home and looking as if they may be dead or damaged, these limbs should be removed immediately in order to avoid wind damage.

The Beaufort Wind Scale, as set forth by the University of North Carolina, has set forth the following guidelines for the damage expected to be caused by the following wind speeds:

39 MPH – Gale force winds; twigs and small branches blown off trees.

47 MPH – Strong gale force winds; minor structural damage may occur, such as shingles blown off roof.

55 MPH – Storm winds; trees can be uprooted and structural damage is likely.

64 MPH – Violent storm; widespread damage to structures.

74 MPH+ – Hurricane force winds.

As indicated by the guidelines above, even a minor wind storm can cause a substantial amount of damage to your home and property.  Although our firm stands ready to assist Florida property owners with any wind damage insurance claims they may have, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and the performance of a few pre-emptive steps may help to prevent headaches from wind damage down the road.

Despite no major storms or hurricanes hitting Florida since 2005, Florida property insurance rates have continue to skyrocket over the past few years – with no end in sight.  Shockingly, a recent AP report showed that Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation has approved more than 100 rate hikes per year since 2009.  Where is the money going – surely not for claims!

The biggest “expense” an insurance company faces is the cost of reinsurance.  Simply stated, reinsurance is an insurance product that an insurance company buys for itself to offset any claims it must pay.  If an insurance company has a large number of claims in a given year, the insurance company submits a claim to its reinsurance company for reimbursement of the amount paid in claims.  The only difference between a policy holder’s relationship with his insurance company and the relationship an insurance company has with its reinsurer is…..the insurance company most likely owns the reinsurance company as well!!!  With this cozy relationship, an insurance company can jack up the rates that it must pay itself – er, I mean, its reinsurer – and thereby create an artificial “hardship”.  The insurance company then squeals to the media and to the legislature that it can’t make any money in Florida unless they are allowed to further increase rates.  Clearly, since an insurance company can set its own expenses (due to the fact that it can manipulate the money it pays to itself as a “cost”), it will never show a profit from its Florida operations!  The Sarasota Herald Tribune wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning article on this concept in 2010.

Where does this leave the individual homeowner who is struggling to pay his ever-increasing property insurance premiums?  Until our representatives in Tallahassee are willing to stand up to the insurance companies and their lobbyists, all Floridians will have to just wait and see what this year’s hurricane season has in store for Florida.  Unfortunately, history has shown us that – whether a storm comes this year or not – we will be facing higher insurance premiums either way.  You know – because of those “reinsurance premiums”….  

 

Recently, the Sun Sentinel newspaper wote an article regarding some of the urban legends, myths and not-quite-accurate beliefs some people have about hurricanes.  Although on initial blush such information may seem like just interesting fodder for conversations at the water cooler, the reality is that the information contained in this article could save a lot of heartache and help avoid an unnecessary loss of property.  The full text of the article appears below: 

Like many catastrophic phenomena, hurricanes have become encrusted with mythology.

From bad advice on how to protect your home to erroneous ideas about the most dangerous regions within a hurricane, meteorologists hear all sorts of lore from the public. Some are harmless baloney, others are genuinely dangerous.

“There are a lot of hurricane myths out there. Many contain a grain of truth. That’s how they got started,” said Steve Letro, a retired meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jacksonville. “Our challenge is to convince the public that official information is actually going to be more correct than what they heard from the guy standing in line at Walmart.”

Here are some of the myths, according to Letro and Chris Landsea, science and operations officer of the National Hurricane Center. They spoke last week at the Governor’s Hurricane Conference in Fort Lauderdale.

Myth: To prepare for a hurricane, tape up your windows with masking tape. This idea actually appeared in publications of the old U.S. Weather Bureau, and a recent survey by the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes found that 70 percent of people in the southeastern United States believed this is an effective way to protect your home.

Reality: This accomplishes nothing and yields a false sense of security. A wind-born tree branch, coconut or garbage can would smash through glass with or without tape. Use shutters or impact glass.

Myth: When a hurricane is approaching, you should open windows on the side of the house where the wind is not expected so you can equalize the air pressure and prevent your house from exploding.

Reality: Completely unnecessary because the pressure changes slowly and no house is airtight, so it will equalize anyway. Opening windows as a hurricane approaches only invites in blasts of wind, rain and debris.

Myth: The strongest winds in a hurricane can be found in the storm’s northeast quadrant.

Reality: Usually this is the case, but not always. For instance, because Wilma approached Florida from the west in 2005, its strongest winds were in its southwest quadrant.

Myth: If a hurricane’s sustained winds are 100 mph and it’s moving west at 15 mph, it’s packing a wind total of 115 mph.

Reality: Wrong. The National Hurricane Center already did the math for you to come up with the wind speed. It will vary through the hurricane, but you can’t just add the steering winds to the rotating winds and come up with the total.

Myth: The storm surge of a hurricane is primarily a result of the lowered air pressure sucking the water up as if through a straw.

Reality: Although the “barometric effect” is a factor, 95 percent of the cause of the storm surge is the hurricane’s winds pushing the water toward shore.

Myth: Hurricanes turn toward the north because they’re following the Gulf Stream.

Reality: Not completely off base, but still wrong. The Gulf Stream current and the typical paths of hurricanes are both the result of northerly wind patterns along the southeast coast of the United States, which is part of the larger circulation of winds around the center of the North Atlantic.

Myth: This is the 21st century, and we should be able to put our technological wizardry to work to destroy hurricanes. We can accomplish this by towing icebergs from the arctic to weaken them with cold water, using giant pipes to bring up cold water from the ocean depths, seeding clouds to force the rain out of them at sea, coat the ocean along their path with oil to stop evaporating water from powering the storm, erecting giant fans to blow the hurricane back out to sea or breaking up a hurricane with hydrogen bombs.

Reality: All impossible, and a few would make things worse. Like many crackpot ideas, however, they are built around a kernel of reality. It would theoretically be possible to fatally weaken a hurricane with icebergs, but towing enough of them into its path would require all the merchant ships currently in service in the world. Even nuclear weapons don’t have sufficient power to do the job. All they would accomplish would be to create a radioactive hurricane.

Hopefully, the information in the above article will come in handy – if not at the water cooler, than in preparation for an upcoming storm. 

 

Last fall, Hurricane Sandy caused devastating damage to the eastern seaboard – yet the National Hurricane Center did not issue any sort of hurricane warning to the people north of North Carolina.  It is not that the National Hurricane Center was negligent in any way, it is just that by the time Sandy reached the more northern coastlines, Sandy’s maximum sustained winds had died down below the 74 mile per hour threshold in order to be considered a hurricane.  Since Sandy was no longer a hurricane, the storm did not qualify under the then existing standards to issue a hurricane warning to those in the path of the storm.  Clearly, even though the storm did not officially qualify as a hurricane and was “only” a tropical storm upon landfall, Sandy still brought catastrophic damage and caused billions of dollars of destroyed property.

The National Hurricane Center is working to fix this problem.  The Center has now added the following phrase to its definition of Hurricane Warning – “Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds.”  Hopefully this expanded definition will better allow the National Hurricane Center to better warn those people in harm’s way and to help mitigate the catastrophic property losses arising out of such storms – hurricane or not.