Hurricanes are among the most destructive natural disasters. Bringing in swaths of heavy rain and powerful winds, these storms often result in catastrophic flooding and wind damage. With the 2022 hurricane season upon us, it’s particularly important for commercial policyholders to know the best means for filing an insurance claim for catastrophic hurricane damage before disaster strikes.
Catastrophic Hurricane Insurance Claim Tips
Many across the nation know how destructive hurricanes can be. These massive storms can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and communities even several hundred miles inland. Hurricanes can produce winds exceeding 155 miles an hour, which can also spawn tornadoes. This often propels debris, breaking windows and doors and allowing rain and rising water to get inside properties.
According to researchers at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the annual economic losses caused by hurricane winds and storm-related flooding averaged $54 billion in 2019. These losses accounted for roughly $9 billion in damages to commercial businesses alone. With this in mind, it’s important to examine the ways policyholders can best prepare themselves for filing a damage claim for catastrophic hurricane damage. This includes knowing what to do well before filing a claim, as well as after the damage has occurred.
What To Do Before Filing a Hurricane Damage Claim
Well before a hurricane is predicted, policyholders should plan for a worst-case scenario. For instance, if it has been more than a year since a commercial property policy has been reviewed or updated, insureds could find their policy limits are much lower than the business is worth. Not only that, but seemingly insignificant items can add up quickly and should be submitted for review and consideration. Hiring a property inspector to review the property ahead of time can save business owners in the long run if a hurricane strikes. This is particularly true if the property owner takes the time to adjust their policy to cover a large loss or total loss of the property.
Commercial property policies aren’t the only insurance coverage that should be reviewed before a catastrophic hurricane. Reviewing an umbrella policy for the business to determine triggers for business interruption and extra expense coverage can ensure policyholders have all their bases covered ahead of time.
Additionally, flooding caused by hurricanes can persist for weeks after the initial impact of a storm. Contrary to popular belief, commercial property insurance policies often exclude or severely limit coverage for flooding. Because of this, property owners should ensure they have a flood damage policy in place through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or a private insurer to recover costs for damage due to flooding. Catastrophic wind damage may also not be covered by a commercial property policy either so, commercial property owners should ensure they have windstorm coverage or a separate windstorm policy in place to cover any damage caused by hurricane-force winds.
What To Do After Hurricane Damage Occurs
Following a catastrophic hurricane, business owners must access the damage in and outside of the building thoroughly—documenting everything through pictures and videos. Owners should be prepared to provide an accurate description of the amount and type of damage sustained. Following this, the insurance carrier should be notified of the damage as soon as possible. This is especially important for disasters like hurricanes as they can impact hundreds if not thousands of people in a single area. The faster a claim is filed, the more quickly a commercial policyholder can potentially resolve it.
Once an insurance company has been notified, the policyholder should begin to document all losses and property conditions. This includes making spreadsheets of any lost inventory, along with photos and videos of all damaged items within the building, as well as collecting receipts and purchase orders for all items the business purchased that may be damaged. Maintaining these documents can help strengthen the insurance claim and help with the presentation of loss to the insurer and adjusters.
Once the damage has been well documented, commercial property owners should take steps to minimize further damage by making temporary repairs. This is usually a condition of a commercial property policy itself, as further property damage caused by a failure to mitigate the initial damage can result in claim denial. Temporary repairs can include putting a tarp over a damaged roof or cordoning off damaged areas from other portions of the property that may not be damaged or suffered minimal damage.
Lastly, commercial policyholders should consider obtaining legal counsel. Even before a hurricane strikes, an insurance coverage attorney can review all property damage policies with the insured to ensure there are no coverage gaps or lapses that could hinder a claim. Not only that, but unfair denials, delays, and gross underpayments are all unfortunately common problems for commercial policyholders dealing with damage to their businesses. Many policyholders may be unaware of the legal options available to them to fight against insurance companies that act in bad faith. If an insurer is refusing, delaying, or underpaying your property damage claim, it may be necessary to hire an insurance coverage attorney.
Hurricane Insurance Coverage Attorneys
Victims of hurricane damage can face uphill battles with their insurers to begin the rebuilding process. When insurance companies decide to take advantage of a policyholder by wrongfully delaying, grossly underpaying, or denying rightfully filed insurance claims, they need to be held accountable for their actions
At Raizner Slania, our insurance coverage attorneys have successfully handled thousands of insurance claim disputes against some of the largest insurance companies in the world. If you need assistance with a commercial property policy or a hurricane damage claim, we can help. Contact our office today for more information.