When your hurricane insurance claim has been denied, you need to consult with a hurricane insurance lawyer immediately. Most hurricane insurance lawyers will accept your case on a contingency basis. They will only receive their legal fees if you get a favorable settlement from the insurance company or a favorable monetary judgment from the court. Should you need a hurricane insurance lawyer, you can send us an email at email@example.com.
A strong hurricane can wreak havoc to thousands of houses and buildings in a particular state. When this happens, the insurance company may be overwhelmed with the deluge of insurance claims being filed. This may lead to a delay in responding or paying your claim. Sometimes, to maintain profitability, these insurance companies will offer you a lower amount than you are entitled to or deny your claim without giving any reason.
This can be disheartening, especially when you have been diligently paying your premiums on time, relying on this safety net of insurance to help you in case a natural calamity, like a hurricane, would cause property damage to your home or building.
Here are some steps you can take when your hurricane insurance claim has been denied:
- Review your insurance policy for the period to appeal
As a general rule, you have six years to file a breach of contract claim, such as a claim against the insurance company for breach of the insurance policy. However, the insurance contract can limit this period, and courts will respect this time limitation, for as long as it is clearly stated in the insurance policy.
Usually, the insurance policy will provide a time period of two (2) years from the date of loss within which to file a lawsuit with the court. Loss will usually be defined in your insurance contract as the date when the hurricane occurred. If the word “loss” is not defined in the contract, New York courts have interpreted loss to begin from the time the insurance company denied your claim. Lobello v. N.Y. Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 151 A.D.3d 1206 (2017).
What is your remedy when the insurance company denies your claim beyond the period stated in the insurance contract to file a lawsuit? Foe example, the hurricane happened on March 2017. The insurance policy stated you had two years from the time of loss (the hurricane) or until March 2019 to file a lawsuit against the insurance company for your claim. You received the insurance company’s denial of your claim or offer of settlement for a substantially lower amount on April 2019, one month after the period to file a lawsuit expired. What is your remedy? In this case, you can argue that the insurance company engaged in a bad faith practice to intentionally delay the decision in your claim in order for you to lose your right to file a lawsuit.
To prevent this from happening, review your insurance policy and look for that period to file a lawsuit against the insurance company. When the period is nearing to expire without a decision from the insurance company, you should already file a lawsuit against the insurance company for your claim to ensure your rights are preserved. Consult with a hurricane insurance lawyer because most lawyers will accept a strong case for an insurance claim on a contingency basis.
- Review the denial decision of your claim
A mere denial of your claim is not sufficient. The insurance company should provide a written denial, explaining the reasons for such. If the insurance company simply denied your claim without providing an explanation, you should demand for a written explanation. Once the insurance company provides you with the reasons for its denial, they cannot raise new reasons at a later time. This gives you protection from insurance companies because you have locked them in with their arguments.
Once you have the written explanation for the denial of your claim, compare the reasons given to your coverage in the insurance policy. If the insurance company cited a particular section in the insurance contract to support denial, review this provision. Maybe they are right. On the other hand, maybe there were provisions that you specifically asked the insurance company or your insurance broker that you would like to have, and they said it was covered in the insurance policy, but it wasn’t. If you have been misled by your insurance company or broker to believe you were covered when in fact you weren’t, you have cause of action against them – a bad faith insurance claim against the insurance company and a negligence claim against the insurance broker. American Bldg. Supply Corp. v. Petrocelli Group, 2010 N.Y. Slip Op. 30611 (N.Y.Misc 2010).
- Improve the quality of the documents supporting your claim
After reviewing and analyzing the decision, check to see if you have more photos, videos, and other documents to support your claim. You should have pictures of your house before the damage occurred to prove to the insurance company that these are items that were damaged in the hurricane. If you don’t have pictures of your house, check with your family and friends. They probably have pictures of the rooms in your house that could help you prove to the insurance company the list of your possessions that were damaged during the hurricane.
- Get an estimate from a public adjuster
Unlike the claims adjuster who is hired by the insurance company, a public adjuster can provide a more independent estimate of the property damage and the repairs needed to restore the property back to its original condition. Hiring a public adjuster will cost you anywhere between $200 to $500. The public adjuster’s report will give you another point of reference and comparison with the estimate of the insurance company. It is also another document that can support your claim for the full amount.
- Call the insurance company to see if you can have your claim re-examined
Hurricanes bring an overwhelming number of filed insurance claims with insurance companies. For this reason, they may not be able to timely respond to your claim or the claims adjuster might have been in a hurry to submit an estimate, leading to miscalculation errors. If you believe that the contract language the insurance company relied on in denying your claim is ambiguous, you should point this out. When language in the insurance company is ambiguous, the courts would rule in favor of the consumer who did not participate in the writing of the insurance policy.
- Consult with a hurricane insurance lawyer
Before your time to file a lawsuit expires, it’s important that you already consult with a hurricane insurance lawyer about filing a lawsuit for breach of contract against the insurance company. Your lawyer might also be able to argue a bad faith insurance claim, which can allow you to get compensation for emotional distress, attorneys’ fees, punitive damages, and additional losses arising from the insurance company’s action.
When your claim is strong and supported by documents, most hurricane insurance lawyers will accept your case on contingency basis. You don’t have to pay for legal fees until the insurance company gives you a favorable settlement or you receive a favorable judgment award from the court.
Do not wait until the last minute to call a hurricane insurance lawyer. It takes time to evaluate a case and prepare a complaint. Should you need a hurricane insurance lawyer, we at the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin are here for you. We have offices in New York and Florida. You can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.