Q&A: What to Know About Filing Hurricane Florence Claims

  1. How do I file a claim?
  2. What other disaster recovery resources, besides insurance, are available?
  3. What is the insurance claims process if I want James Scott Farrin to handle my property damage claim?
  4. I don’t understand my policy. Can you help me interpret it?
  5. Does my personal homeowners policy include flood insurance?
  6. If I don’t have flood insurance, what kinds of damages can I claim?
  7. What should I do to strengthen my claim?
  8. How should I handle repairs?
  9. Are there any special considerations for farms or businesses?
  10. What if I discover damages later after starting my claim?
  11. I got hurt on the job as a result of the hurricane, what should I do?
  12. What should I watch out for when dealing with the insurance company?
  13. Should I hire my own adjuster who can assess my damages?
  14. What should I look for if I want someone to represent me?

1. How do I file a claim?

Click here for information on how to file your Hurricane Florence claim.

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2. 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 Hurricane Florence. Click here for a list of some of them.

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3. What is the insurance claims process if I want James Scott Farrin to handle my property damage claim?

Simple.

File your claim.

File your hurricane damages claim with your insurance company online, by phone, in person – whatever is easiest for you. Filing a claim simply means letting your insurance company know that you have damages and that you may have a claim.

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.

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.

Our pledge to you is that we will work to:

  • Review your policy with an eye toward determining any potential issues
  • Compile valuations of building, equipment, other losses
  • Work hard to 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

Our guarantee to you.

While we do not have a crystal ball, we will not take your property damage case unless we believe we may be able to get you more money from the insurance company (even after our contingency fee). Over 20 years of experience negotiating with insurance companies has shown us that many insurance companies have tended to offer more and often have acted quicker when an attorney is involved*.

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. As one of the largest plaintiff’s firms in NC we have a big hammer to swing and many insurance companies know it. That is the leverage you need and the leverage you get when you hire us.

We strive for a win-win.

Whether the insurance company doesn’t offer you what you realistically 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 a number of 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.

If we accept your property damage claim, we will review your insurance policy and try to help you understand it.

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4. I don’t understand my 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.

Let’s say, for example, that the insurance company will pay for your damaged roof but they refuse to pay for your damaged fence. They claim 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. Yet, 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.

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5. Does my personal homeowners policy include flood insurance?

No. Personal homeowners policies in North 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. 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 recovery more difficult. Many people do not have flood insurance. However, most people are typically insured for damages caused by wind and rain.

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, say, from a storm surge or river overflow – is not covered.

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.

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6. 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.

We caution you to 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.

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.

If a tree falls in your yard and ruins your 20-year-old azalea bed, for example, you cannot claim damages for the azaleas. Sometimes the insurance company might pay $500 to $1,000 (or nothing) for cleanup of the tree. It depends on the terms of your policy. 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.

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7. What should I do to strengthen my 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 cannot pay you damages unless they have evidence that there is damage, and to what extent. 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 is 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 the information 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. For more information on handling conversations with insurance adjusters, check out our page on recorded statements.

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.

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8. 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 temporary repairs even before an adjuster assesses the damages. Especially if your roof is damaged, you should put up a tarp right away to try to stop or mitigate any further damages. 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 sq. ft. 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.

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9. Are there any special considerations for farms or businesses?

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

Business damages.
If you own a business, you may have purchased business interruption insurance. Business interruption insurance covers you if you have property damage or other interruption and you are unable to conduct your business as a result of the hurricane. Whether it’s because the roads are blocked or your business is damaged, your customers cannot get to you, nor can your vendors and suppliers access your business to supply items you need to sell to your customers. You may be losing business on a number of fronts and that cuts down on your revenue. That is why business owners purchase business interruption insurance. It is a key consideration in your business damages claim.

Farm damages.
Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in North Carolina, and our farmers in the eastern part of the state got hit hard. Many 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 the human food channels.

Assistance available to businesses and farmers
There are a number of options 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. Our pledge to you is that we will work to:

  • Review your policy with an eye toward determining any potential issues
  • Compile valuations of building, equipment, other losses
  • Work hard to 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

Our guarantee to you.
While we do not have a crystal ball, we will not take your property damage case unless we believe we may be able to get you more money from the insurance company (even after our contingency fee). Over 20 years of experience negotiating with insurance companies has shown us that many insurance companies have tended to offer more and often have acted quicker when an attorney is involved*.

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. As one of the largest plaintiff’s firms in NC we have a big hammer to swing and many insurance companies know it. That is the leverage you need and the leverage you get when you hire us.

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10. 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 water or wind damage that may be the result of Hurricane Florence, you may 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, 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.

File your claim ASAP once you discover damages. While the statute of limitations for filing property damage claims in North Carolina is 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.

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11. 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 Hurricane Florence, click here for a step-by-step process on the three things you need to do right away.

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12. What should I watch out for when dealing with the insurance company?

Keep in mind that thousands of insurance adjusters have been relocated to the affected areas and are working very hard to try 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 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.

Insurance companies, however, are for-profit businesses and they are not in the business of simply paying you initially 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:

  • Lowballing
  • 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 Florence property damage client, we will also review your policy for you.

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13. 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 their 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. As one of the largest plaintiff’s firms in NC we have a big hammer to swing and many insurance companies know it. That is the leverage you need and the leverage you get when you hire us.

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14. What should I look for if I want someone to represent me?

Here is why we believe you should look no further than the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin.

We work where you live.
Our 20-year-old firm is one of the largest plaintiff’s firms in North Carolina. We have recovered in excess of $750 million* total for more than 30,000 clients in North Carolina since 1997. And, in one of our proudest moments, we helped lead a team of law firms in obtaining a historic $1.25 billion* settlement for 18,400 claimants who were discriminated against by the United States government.

While we have achieved national and state-wide recognition, we are local first and foremost. With 14 offices across the state, we, too, felt the local devastation of Hurricane Florence – particularly in New Bern, Fayetteville, and Greenville – even Charlotte. Many of our employees have been working hard to try to help where needed most. In Wilmington, for example, there was so much debris, one of our attorneys traveled to that area to help chainsaw trees and other vegetation to enable homeowners to return home. Our staff has raised more than $5,000 worth of goods and funding for victims. And we plan to continue to offer our help and support, as needed.

Our legal team is experienced and formidable.
We have lawyers who have years of experience handling property damage claims – large and small. Gary Jackson, played a leading role in the nationally-publicized synthetic stucco lawsuit victory. He represented over 300 homeowners, several commercial businesses, and many homeowner associations in those cases, recovering over $25 million*.

Many of our roughly 200 staff members (including 46 lawyers) have years of experience in their fields. Our litigation team has been described as formidable. Leading that team is Senior Attorney Hoyt Tessener who has handled cases throughout the U.S. and has been responsible for verdicts and settlements of over $90 million*.

We use technology and data analytics to uncover information – fast.
Law firm colleagues have commented that our firm is a leading innovator when it comes to utilizing technology for the benefit of our clients.

Our pledge to you is that we will work to:

  • Review your policy with an eye toward determining any potential issues
  • Compile valuations of building, equipment, other losses
  • Work hard to 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

Our guarantee to you.
While we do not have a crystal ball, we will not take your property damage case unless we believe we may be able to get you more money from the insurance company (even after our contingency fee). Over 20 years of experience negotiating with insurance companies has shown us that many insurance companies have tended to offer more and often have acted quicker when an attorney is involved*.

We strive for a win-win all around.

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* Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin led a team of firms to recover $1.25 billion for African-American farmers from the U. S. government for discrimination. Results obtained by Gary Jackson and Hoyt Tessener were prior to joining the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin.