The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Posted on September 23, 2020 by Chip Merlin

After a property damage loss, notify your insurer right away and file mandatory proofs of loss 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to give clients the bad news that the insurance they paid for won’t cover their claim because they failed to file a formal proof-of-loss form in a timely manner. Just pick a hurricane, and the same issue comes up time and again. Indeed, just as an example, we are still working on cases involving Hurricane Irma which roared up the length of Florida in September 2017, raking much of Florida with sustained winds of 115 mph.

Hurricane Irma formed off Africa on August 30 and quickly became a Category 5 tropical cyclone. Maximum sustained winds hit an astonishing 185 mph and stayed that high for three days, setting records for lasting intensity at that level. The storm hit the Florida Keys as a Category 4 hurricane, and then it weakened rapidly after it encountered land and strong wind shear. Nevertheless, Hurricane Irma killed 134 people and caused an estimated $50 billion in property damage.

Many policyholders with valid property damage claims are facing denials because their notice of loss was not timely and they are just now filing their claims. In instances where a loss is confined to a single policyholder, such as in the case of a house fire, filing a claim is usually pretty straightforward. When a big storm like Hurricane Irma comes to town, all bets are off. Demand for insurance adjusters and building contractors skyrockets, making it harder to get the proper documentation to promptly establish the nature of the loss.

Delays in filing proof-of-loss documentation can be particularly problematic when it comes to flood insurance. The Federal Flood Insurance Program mandates that all proof-of-loss paperwork must be filed within sixty days of the flood event. In the mayhem that follows natural disasters like Hurricane Irma, it can be next to impossible to meet the deadline. Typically, the federal government extends the filing deadline to a year, but the right forms have to be submitted with all the supporting documentation or the claim will be denied. It can easily take a year to fully document a claim. Complex flood claims have many tricky and technical proof of loss requirements. 

If serious damage occurs, get the expert advice you need to properly assess and document the claim. With the right documentation, it is sometimes possible to file claims for storm-related damage that wasn’t initially obvious. However, it depends on where you live. In most states, you’ll have no recourse after the fact. In Florida, you have three years to notify the wind carriers about all of the damages.  

Reputable independent insurance agents, public insurance adjusters, property insurance attorneys, and building contractors should be considered as potential key players in the claims process when major losses occur due to hurricanes. With professional help, your paperwork will be in order and it will be filed in a timely manner to get you the settlement you deserve. 


Justice For The Policyholder

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