When Hurricane Irma plowed the length of Florida on September 10 and 11, it left a surprising amount of damage throughout the Jacksonville area given that the eye of the storm passed more than 60 miles to our west. Heavy flooding occurred in downtown Jacksonville, Doctor’s Inlet, St. Augustine, San Marco, Jacksonville Beach, Orange Park and Middleburg. Wind damaged thousands of roofs. Falling trees damaged houses, fences and cars. Rising waters flooded homes and destroyed bulkheads and docks. In Vilano Beach, at least one home fell into the ocean.
Within a few days of Hurricane Irma, our phones starting ringing with people concerned that their homeowners insurance companies were not treating them fairly. At least one caller was shocked to learn he did not have flood insurance after his broker assured him that flood coverage was in place. Others have already received woefully insufficient offers to address their storm damage. In one Hurricane Irma claim, our client was offered $9,000.00 by his homeowners insurer for repairs that are estimated to exceed $50,000.00.
The most common insurance disputes our lawyers handle following hurricanes or major storms include: whether damage (especially interior water damage) existed before the storm; whether out-buildings are covered under the insurance policy; whether docks, decks, boatlifts or bulkheads are covered under the insurance policy; whether appropriate mold remediation has been completed; whether the hurricane deductible has been applied correctly; whether the value of damaged personal property has been fully evaluated; and whether the full extent of required repairs have been determined.
Often, our attorneys resolve insurance claims without filing suit; however, when suit is necessary, we do not hesitate. We find that proper preparation and using appropriate experts and contractors usually convinces an insurer that paying the claim in entirety is its best course of action.
If you have a dispute with your own insurance company regarding damage from Hurricane Irma, we recommend that you speak with an attorney experienced in hurricane damage claims without delay. If your insurer asks you to submit to an examination under oath, we cannot stress highly enough the importance of discussing the matter with an attorney before the statement is taken. These statements can be used by the insurer to deny or limit the claim.