Hurricane Irma made a direct hit on our cherished Florida Keys. I own a home in Key Largo and have been going down to the Keys since September 14th to help out. We brought water, food, propane, contractor bags, gloves, and cleaning supplies. I have carried rain-soaked rugs, pushed stalled cars, and spoken to countless homeowners who were shocked by the damage to their homes and businesses.
Hurricane Irma Damages
The worst-hit areas are those properties on the ocean side of the Florida Keys. The degree of damages worsens as you go south from Key Largo. The most devastated areas that I have seen thus far are Marathon, Big Pine Key, Little Torch Key, and Summerland Key. There is a lot of work to do. Beyond safety, protecting property, cleaning up, and recovering possessions is at the top of everyone's list.
Hurricane Irma Insurance Claims
The next phase, processing your insurance claim is next. The key to protecting your rights is knowledge. Individuals that have expertise in processing insurance claims include public adjusters and insurance lawyers. All homeowners and business owners in the Florida Keys MUST seek the help of a licensed public adjuster and insurance lawyer.
A public adjuster and insurance lawyer working in tandem will protect your rights and process your insurance claim correctly with the insurance company. The goal in all cases is to maximize your coverage and recovery. The public adjuster focuses on documenting ALL the damages. The insurance lawyer focuses on insurance coverage and enforcing your insurance contract.
Just remember this simple idea. The insurance company's adjuster is an employee or agent of the insurance company. The insurance company's adjuster is paid by the insurance company and his/her goal is to minimize all payments to you. On the other hand, a public adjuster works for you. The public adjuster is your advocate and his or her goal is to maximize payments to you. So unless you are qualified to assess and document damages, and write detailed repair estimates, you really need a public adjuster on your side.
Hurricane Irma Insurance Payments
Do not accept no from your insurance company in this time of need and natural disaster. Also, do not accept the initial payment from your insurance company as the only monies you are entitled to. Most likely they are giving you the absolute minimum and often are missing entire sections of recoverable damages and underpricing the repairs.
It is absolutely the best practice to hire a public adjuster right from the start to ensure that your claim is handled correctly from the beginning. If that is not done for some reason, you should always get a second opinion from a public adjuster once you receive an initial payment. How else are you going to know that you were properly paid everything you were owed? You paid your insurance premiums for this exact time of need. Do not accept less from your insurance company.
About the Author: Patrick Russell, Esq., has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1994 and is an experienced Florida insurance lawyer. Patrick started his insurance law practice more than twenty years ago when he represented homeowners and business owners for their Hurricane Andrew insurance claims. The purpose of this article is educational and not for the solicitation of legal services. The goal is to avoid the mistakes learned from the past, specifically those from previous windstorms. Knowledge is power. Information is free. Mistakes are costly. If you would like more tips on how to process your Florida insurance claim, Patrick can be reached at (305) 608-2977 or here.