Q&A: What to Know About Filing Hurricane Claims

How Do I File a Hurricane Property Damage Insurance Claim?

Visit this linked page for information on how to file your hurricane property damage insurance claim.

[ Back to Top ]

What Other Disaster Recovery Resources, Besides Insurance, Are Available?

There are numerous state, local, federal, and private organizations offering financial and other assistance to those affected by hurricanes. Here are lists of some of these valuable national and state-specific hurricane resources for individuals, businesses, and farms.

[ Back to Top ]

What Is the Insurance Claims Process if I Want James Scott Farrin to Handle My Property Damage Claim?

  1. File your claim.
    File your hurricane property damages claim with your insurance company online, by phone, in person – whatever is easiest and available for you. Filing a claim simply means letting your insurance company know that you have damages and that you may have a claim.
  2. Consult with your insurance company.
    Go through the process with your insurance company, consult your adjuster, describe your damages (be careful on the recorded statement how you describe damages), get an estimate for repairs, and wait for an offer from your insurance company.
  3. Contact us if your offer is not fair.
    If you feel your offer is not fair, and if you have documentation that it is not, contact us or call 1-866-900-7078.

We will work to:

  • Review your policy with an eye toward determining any potential issues
  • Compile valuations of building, equipment, and other losses
  • Try to put together strong evidence offering proof of your damages
  • Develop a claims strategy
  • Negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf
  • Keep you informed every step of the way

Whether the insurance company doesn’t offer you what you think is fair, or you simply do not want to deal with the hassle and bureaucracy of handling your claim yourself, feel free to contact us. We have experienced lawyers on staff who have successfully handled large and small property claims cases – including property damage claims for businesses.

All we need from you to negotiate with the insurance company is documented proof of damages, such as photos or other legitimate proof, an estimate of the cost to repair those damages, and your insurance policy.

[ Back to Top ]

I Don’t Understand My Insurance Policy. Can You Help Me Interpret It?

If we accept your property damage claim for your home, business, farm, or auto, we will be happy to review your insurance policy, and try to help you understand what type of case you may have. This process can be confusing, and there are many different types of insurance policies. It can be comforting to have an objective guide.

For example, let’s say that the insurance company will pay for your damaged roof but they refuse to pay for your damaged fence, claiming it was damaged before the hurricane. You submit a photo of your children playing in front of that fence that was taken two weeks before the hurricane, and the fence was not damaged. But they ignore that proof and still refuse to pay. You could potentially have a bad faith case against them. A bad faith claim is when the insurance company unreasonably refuses to pay your valid claim. Our lawyers recognize when an insurance company is acting in bad faith and can help you fight this tactic.

[ Back to Top ]

Does My Personal Homeowners Policy Include Flood Insurance?

No. Personal homeowners policies in North Carolina and South Carolina do not cover damages caused by flooding.

You must have a separate flood insurance policy for flood damage. However, be careful using the word “flood” when describing damages in your hurricane damages claim. Many people make the mistake of referring to any water damage as “flooding.” But there’s an important distinction that should be made.

  • Generally, damages caused by wind, wind-driven rain, and water that comes in through the roof, windows, doors, etc. is covered by homeowners insurance.
  • But damage from water that rises from the bottom up from a storm surge or river overflow is not covered.

Using the words “flood” or “flooding” may make recovery more difficult. Many people do not have flood insurance. However, most people are typically insured for damages caused by wind and rain.

Flood insurance is backed by the federal or state governments, depending on where your property is. Insurance companies sell the federal policies, which are issued through the National Flood Insurance Program. The feds underwrite the costs and the insurers administer and manage the policies.

[ Back to Top ]

If I Don’t Have Flood Insurance, What Kinds of Damages Can I Claim?

First, do you know for certain that your structure (home, business, barn, etc.) was damaged by flooding? Or did water and wind-driven rain create water damage that resembles flooding? If your home was damaged by wind and water, you may be able to claim more damages.

This bears repeating because it is an important distinction and can affect the amount of your potential recovery from the insurance company: We caution you to be careful using the word “flood” when describing damages in your hurricane damages claim. Many people make the mistake of referring to any water damage as “flooding,” but using the words “flood” or “flooding” may make insurance recovery more difficult. While many people do not have flood insurance, most people are typically insured for damages caused by wind and rain.

For example, depending on your policy terms, typically any damage to the top of a structure would likely be a wind and water damage claim. You may also be able to claim damages for retaining walls, sheds, separate structures such as barns, fences, and other dwellings for wind and water damage.

But if a tree falls in your yard and ruins your 20-year-old azalea bed, you cannot claim damages for the azaleas. Depending on the terms of your insurance policy, the insurance company might pay $500 to $1,000 (or nothing) for cleanup of the tree. If, however, a downed tree damages your house or other structure, including fencing, you are more likely to be able to make a claim for those damages. If one of your trees damages your neighbor’s home or other structure, their homeowners policy would potentially cover damages.

[ Back to Top ]

What Should I Do to Strengthen My Hurricane Property Damage Claim?

  • Take as many photos and document as much as you can so you’ll have proof of damages.
    Put yourself in the shoes of the insurance company. They will not pay you damages unless they have evidence that there is damage and the scope of the damage. Even if things seem fine now, take photos. Sometimes, damages show up later – mold, mildew, electronics and electrical failures, wiring problems. While the statute of limitations for filing property damage claims in North Carolina and South Carolina is generally three years from the date you have evidence of the damage, it is best to assume that the clock starts ticking on the date of the event.
  • Be on the lookout for evidence of water and wind damage that may not show up until later.
    Evidence may include water marks and discoloration, buckling and warping floors, musty odors, peeling paint, electronics and electrical problems, and loose roofing shingles, among other things. You may also want to consider having your home tested for mold spore buildup now, and again a few months later, to see if there is an increase in spores.
  • Keep track of the time you have had to spend out of work to tend to damages.
    This could potentially be a covered expense, depending on your policy terms. Keep all receipts for repairs to damaged items and property. This includes living expenses if you had to evacuate – hotel rooms, food, gas, and other costs of evacuation. Most homeowner policies that cover wind and water damage will cover those costs – up to a year in some cases.
  • Keep a journal of every conversation you have with insurance representatives.
    Include names, date and time, contact information, and relevant details of the conversation that transpired. If you can, include actual quotes, especially where compensation is mentioned.
  • Be careful using the word “flood” when describing damages.
    Many people make the mistake of referring to any water damage as “flooding.” But there’s an important distinction that should be made. Using the words “flood” or “flooding” may make insurance recovery more difficult. Many people do not have flood insurance. However, most people are typically insured for damages caused by wind and rain.

To be safe, it’s best to use the term “water damages” when speaking to anyone in an official insurance capacity, including insurance adjusters, until you can ascertain what caused the damages.

  • When a claims adjuster arrives, ask if they work for your insurance company or for an independent adjuster.
    If independent, ask if they are authorized to make claims decisions and payments on behalf of your insurance company. Also ask for the name of your insurance company’s adjuster that the independent adjuster will be sending your information to.
[ Back to Top ]

How Should I Handle Repairs?

You have a duty to mitigate, or limit, your damages. In order to try to prevent further damages, insurers may want you to make some reasonable temporary repairs even before an adjuster assesses the damages. Especially if your roof is damaged and you are able, you should put up a tarp right away to try to stop or lessen any further damage. If you are not able to put a tarp, let the insurance company know. And consider repairing windows, doors, and any holes to the outside of your home or business. Keep the damaged property as evidence for the insurance company.

You should not expect to receive payment for upgraded windows, doors, roofing, flooring, etc. Insurance will not pay you for upgrades. Your policy will determine whether insurance will reimburse you for replacement value or cash value.

Replacement value allows you to replace the damaged item at today’s cost. For example, if your $10 per square foot carpet is 10 years old, the insurance company will pay you whatever it costs to purchase that carpet at today’s price, even if it costs more. Cash value, on the other hand, will take into account depreciation of that old carpet, and insurance will offer you less than what you paid 10 years ago.

When making replacements or repairs, make sure you take photos beforehand to provide evidence of damage to the insurance company. And keep the damaged property as well as receipts from supplies, labor, and other expenses you incurred to repair damages.

[ Back to Top ]

Are There Any Special Considerations for Farms or Businesses?

There are special considerations for certain damages to farms and businesses.

Farm Damages
Agriculture is one of the top industries in both North Carolina and South Carolina, and our farmers can suffer tremendous damage from a hurricane. Often, farmers will not know the full extent of actual damages for months, and some farmers may have to destroy all or part of their crops because the FDA forbids edible crops contaminated by floodwaters to enter human food channels.

Business Damages
If you own a business, you may have purchased business interruption insurance. In general, business interruption insurance covers you if you have property damage or other interruptions and are unable to conduct your business for a period of time (usually 30 days) as a result of the hurricane. For example, perhaps the roads are blocked, and your customers cannot get to you, and your vendors and suppliers cannot access your business to supply items you need to sell to your customers. Or you may be losing business on a number of fronts and that cuts down on your revenue. These are reasons why business owners purchase business interruption insurance.

Assistance Available to Businesses and Farmers
There are resources available to businesses and farmers regarding how and where to obtain damage relief.

If you feel you are being treated unfairly by your insurance company with regard to your damages, and you have proof, please contact us immediately.

[ Back to Top ]

What if I Discover Damages Later After Starting My Claim?

Be on the lookout for evidence of water and wind damage that may not show up until weeks or months later. If you find evidence of this type of damage that may be the result of a hurricane, you may be able to file a subsequent claim. Evidence of damage may include:

  • Water marks and discoloration
  • Buckling and warping floors
  • Musty odors
  • Peeling paint
  • Electronics issues and electrical problems
  • Loose roofing shingles

You may also want to consider having your home tested for mold spore buildup now, and again a few months later, to see if there is an increase in spores.

[ Back to Top ]

I Got Hurt on the Job As a Result of the Hurricane, What Should I Do?

If you were injured on the job as a result of a hurricane, here are the three things you should do right away:

  1. Report your injury to your employer.
  2. Get medical treatment.
  3. Consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in your state.
[ Back to Top ]

What Should I Watch Out for When Dealing With the Insurance Company?

Keep in mind that hundreds to thousands of insurance adjusters are usually relocated to the areas affected by the hurricane, and they are working to assess damages. You want to try to make it as easy as possible for them by making sure you have proof (the damaged property, before and after photos, receipts, and other evidence) and also by trying to speak their language. In other words, don’t say your house or business was “flooded” if you do not know for certain that a flood caused the damage. It could have been caused by wind-driven rain. Let the adjuster assess the damages.

Reminder: Insurance companies are for-profit businesses, and they are not in the business of simply paying you what you think you are owed. Sometimes, claimants have had to fight for what they are owed – particularly in disaster-type situations like hurricanes, where millions of claims are being filed.

Here are some “red flags” to look for when dealing with the insurance company:

  • Lowball offers (offering less than the full amount potentially owed because they know you’re vulnerable)
  • Excessive delays (keeping in mind the massive workload, of course)
  • Semantics games as to whether your damages were wind- and rain-driven or from flooding (you won’t get paid for flooding unless you have a flood policy)
  • Shifting the blame
  • Claims denials

If you experience any of these or other issues that you feel are unfair, please contact us or call 1-866-900-7078, and we will evaluate your claim for free. If you become a hurricane property damage client, we will also review your policy for you.

[ Back to Top ]

Should I Hire My Own Adjuster Who Can Assess My Damages?

A public adjuster works for the policyholder, not the insurance company. They are claims handlers/claims adjusters who advocate for the policyholder in appraising and negotiating your insurance claim. However, a public adjuster may not be qualified to value the cost of many types of damages. And, if the insurance company refuses to pay what they claim is owed, what is the public adjuster’s leverage? They cannot represent the claimant in court as a lawyer can.

In our experience, if an insurance company knows you have a no-nonsense litigation team working for you who is able to take them to court, they tend to take your claim more seriously. Our firm has 50+ attorneys and has recovered over $1.2 billion in total for over 50,000 clients since 1997.1 We have the resources and skill set to fight for claimants, and that is the leverage you want and the leverage you get when you hire us.

[ Back to Top ]

What Can We Do for You?

At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we have attorneys with more than 30 years of experience negotiating with insurance companies. We have seen that many insurance companies have tended to offer more, and often have acted quicker, when an attorney is involved.1

We operate on a contingency fee basis, which means we only collect an attorney’s fee if we are able to recover for you.2 This way, you do not have to worry about hourly attorney’s fees, and there are no upfront costs. We will not take your hurricane property damage case unless we believe we may be able to get you more money from the insurance company than you can get on your own.

Contact us for a free hurricane case evaluation today.

Text UsText Us [ Back to Top ]