Property damage, particularly the kind of severe damage that can occur during Florida's hurricane season -- can be devastating. High winds, floods, extreme rain, hail, all of these can cause significant damage to your property. Making an insurance claim is a significant step towards getting back on track.
At first, you might find yourself dealing with the immediate aftermath of the storm: salvaging as much as you can, arranging repairs, perhaps even seeking alternative accommodations. Coping with storm damage can be extremely stressful, particularly if you find yourself unable to return to your home for some time afterward. Even so, it's important not to put off contacting your insurance company. While you might have more pressing concerns in the aftermath of a major storm, it's essential to notify your insurance company and put in your claim in a timely manner.
Your insurance policy is designed to cover you in the unfortunate event that you're affected by property damage or loss. It is a contractual agreement with the insurance provider. When you took out the policy, you agreed to be bound by its terms.
Besides various other limitations and exclusions, your policy will contain multiple stipulations regarding claims, including a timeframe within which you must make a claim. Each policy is different and time frames vary between companies and even between the same company policies. If you do not put in your claim within the stated time limit, the insurance company can deny your claim. For this reason, it's crucial to check your policy and find out how long you have to make a claim.
If your claim relates specifically to damage from storms or hurricanes, the timeframe of your request may also be affected by Florida's statutes. Under Florida's statute of limitations, you must give notice of a claim to your insurance company no more than three years after the windstorm or hurricane made landfall. For example, a claim relating to Hurricane Irma would have needed to be made before September 11, 2020.
Even if your policy allows plenty of time to make a claim, it's a good move to contact your insurance company as soon as you can after the damage or loss occurs. The sooner you notify them that you're going to make a claim, the sooner they can begin processing it. You do not have to make a detailed claim right away, but you do have to provide them notice that damage has occurred and file your claim.
When you contact your insurance company, make sure you have your policy number available and any relevant documents on hand. It's a good idea to document and make note of the date and time of the call and the person you talk to. If you are given a claim number, make a careful note of this too. Write down the broad details of what you were told, including any instructions you were given.
If requested by the insurance company, you will need to submit a Proof of Loss Statement. This also needs to be completed within the stipulated timeframe. The Proof of Loss Statement is very important to your claim. It would be best to have a professional, such as a Public Insurance Adjuster help you with this.
Time Limits for Insurance Companies
There are also time restrictions that apply to insurance companies. These exist to ensure that your claim is processed on timely. In most cases, once you make your claim, your insurance company is bound to make a determination on your claim within 90 days.
Suppose you're filing a property damage claim under your homeowner's insurance. In that case, the insurance company is obliged to provide you with a copy of the Homeowner's Claims Bill of Rights within 14 days of receiving notice of your claim. This document details the obligations of both parties under the terms of the insurance policy, including the time limits that you must both abide by.
The amount of time that a claim takes can vary and depends on the claim’s size and complexity. Smaller claims may be agreed upon sooner than larger, more complicated claims involving significant damage or unique properties.
Prevention is Better than Cure
The better you prepare ahead of hurricane season, the easier any future insurance claims will be. You may also need to provide evidence of the property's condition before the damage. That's why it's important to get a detailed Pre-Storm Property Inspection before the Florida storm season begins. Having a qualified expert document your property in its undamaged state will make resolving insurance disputes much easier. An expert Pre-Storm Property Inspection will also spot potential weak points and areas in need of upgrade or repair. Showing that you undertook all reasonable steps to avoid damage to your property can also be helpful if there's a dispute.
Coping with the aftermath of an insurance claim, especially a major storm, hurricane or flood is never easy. It's a stressful time and it's easy to let some things slide while you try to come to terms with the situation. By familiarizing yourself with the terms of your policy now, you'll be less likely to miss important deadlines if the worst happens.