With Hurricanes Dorian and Imelda devastating the Bahamas, the east coast, and the Gulf of Texas, insurance companies, public adjusters, and emergency services are working overtime to handle the influx of property claims for residential and commercial policyholders. For reference, nearly three quarters of a million additional property claims were filed after Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Though Imelda and Dorian resulted in fewer fatalities than Harvey, their close timing to each other has overloaded the system and will likely mean longer delays than normal in insureds receiving coverage for their losses.
In addition to potential delays, claims resulting from hurricanes like Imelda and Dorian may bring other additional devastation to property owners. While policies do typically cover wind and rain damage to structures, insurance carriers have a loophole to denying these hurricane claims, resulting in no coverage and a loss of property. In 2017 and 2018, property owners saw their claims being denied for “flood and groundwater overflow” rather than the coverage they anticipated. While FEMA provided some emergency funds, these monies were insufficient for property owners, and policyholders have struggled to rebuild as a result. Additionally, property owners are often surprised by their deductible being applied at 2% of the property value when filing a wind claim, resulting in a far smaller claim payment. Finally, insurance claims are more likely to be underpaid during severe influxes due to carriers attempting to settle claims quickly. A review after Superstorm Sandy found nearly $700 million in additional payments were due to property owners as supplemental claim payments.
With Imelda in particular causing extreme flooding again in the Houston area, it’s likely that policyholders will begin receiving the same claim denials or under-payments as experienced after Hurricane Harvey. So what can a policyholder do?
- Look out for inexperienced or emergency insurance adjusters handling your claim. Often, with a high influx of claims, insurance companies hire inexperienced or emergency adjusters to get through the increase faster. These adjusters are often provided with only a few days’ training, and are likely to miss damage or severely underpay your claim.
- Don’t accept the first offer from the insurance carrier. Nearly all insurance claims are underpaid or have missed damage. Review the estimate closely to confirm all damages are covered and have adequate funds to restore them to their previous condition.
- Have your policy and coverages checked NOW and confirm your deductible. Though it’s too late to make changes for Hurricanes Imelda and Dorian, ensuring your policy properly covers your property and that you have flood policies in place for the worst case scenario will ensure that your assets are covered in the future. Additionally, confirming your deductible will provide property owners with an idea of what to expect when filing an insurance claim.
- Contact a public adjuster for assistance. Policyholders, especially in the midst of their devastation, are typically not equipped to argue and get a claim denials for flood overturned, while a public adjuster is uniquely qualified and prepared to deal with unfair arguments the insurance carrier may use.
Did you know Premier Claims offers free assistance on all of those tips? Contact Premier Claims today for a FREE inspection and documentation of your property, free claim and policy review, or tips on how you can be ready for anything life – or the weather – may throw your way.