Last week, a tornado unexpectedly ravaged parts of Florida—Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Polk counties. The Tampa Tribune reported, “twister spent two hours cutting its way across mid-Pinellas County, churning through the waters of Tampa Bay and then reforming over Polk County about 50 miles away.”
Given the reports of wide-spread property damage, including torn-off roofs, I want to provide you with steps to take to maximize your homeowner’s insurance claim after suffering tornado damage.
Immediately report the claim to your insurance carrier. Ideally, report the claim within 24 hours and follow up with a confirmation email. The sooner you report it the better. Insurance carriers love to argue that their investigation of the claim was prejudiced due to a delay in reporting the claim -- even if it is only by a few days! Early reporting cuts this argument off right at the knees.
Take pictures/videos of the damaged property. I always recommend clients take pictures of the property and videos with their cell phones immediately. It is a cliché because its true: a picture is worth a thousand words. That way, if you have to perform emergency temporary repairs to your property, the insurance company cannot argue that damages to the property after the incident were not documented.
Secure a copy of your entire homeowner’s insurance policy. When I say the entire policy, I mean the entire policy. Not just a portion or a couple of pages. If you do not have a hard copy, you should request a certified copy of the policy from the carrier -- preferably in a PDF format -- so you can access it when you need to review it. Sometimes certain carriers will permit you to download it from their site whereas others will send it to you the old-fashioned way via U.S. mail.
Do not talk to your insurance company without representation. Once you have reported your claim to the insurance company, you need to have some kind of representation. That could be a public adjuster or an attorney. Homeowners always think that if they just explain their situation to the insurance representative, their insurance company will do the right thing. All too frequently, this is not the case. Just as it is wise to avoid talking to the police if you are under criminal investigation, it is wise not to talk to your insurance carrier without representation. Sometimes talking to the carrier without representation provides the carrier a blueprint on how to deny or underpay your claim.
Keep meticulous records. If you have to pay out of pocket for some expenses or have lost personal belongings, document everything. I will say it again: document everything. Keep a list of your damaged belongings as well as all expenses. I also recommend that homeowners keep a log/diary of everyone they speak to regarding their claim—be it an adjuster, a roofer, a contractor, an engineer, etc.
If you have questions regarding a Florida tornado claim, call the PZ Law Firm, P.A. at (407) 500-EZPZ (3979) today as our office handles these claims throughout Florida. Information is power, and power is what you need when you are suffering a property loss or damage to your home.
Disclaimer: This column does not create a client-attorney relationship and is not intended as legal advice. Should you need any legal advice, speak to an attorney who is skilled in the area and jurisdiction you require.