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Hurricanes are among the most devastating and unpredictable natural disasters facing policyholders along the coast. Strong winds, heavy rainfall, storm surges, and flooding have the potential to cause significant damage to your residence or commercial establishment. 

Hurricane loss refers to the extensive and often catastrophic financial, property, and personal losses resulting from the impact of a hurricane, including damage to homes, infrastructure, and livelihoods.

Dealing with storm damage insurance claims can be complex, as they may involve multiple insurance policies, such as standard homeowners' insurance and flood insurance, with each insurance company attempting to shift the responsibility to the other.

Prepare Ahead

If you live in an area susceptible to hurricane damage, you should prepare accordingly.
You should set up a consult with your insurance agent or an attorney to discuss your insurance policy and the type of coverage you need and can afford. Different policy premiums come with different risks and you need to understand the pros/cons of your decisions. Policyholders should thoroughly review their insurance policies to gain a clear understanding of both the events or circumstances covered by the policy and the specific properties protected by it.

For example, even if you have an “all-risk” policy it likely does not provide coverage for all risks, especially when it comes to hurricane damage. A standard “all-risk” policy covers losses by hurricane winds but does not cover losses caused by flood waters that come with hurricane winds and rain. A separate flood policy is almost always necessary to insure against the risk of catastrophic flooding. 

Additionally, it is also critical to understand what type of coverage was purchased. Insurance companies offer both replacement cost and actual cost policies. Actual Cost Value means the insurance company only owes you the amount of money needed to repair your home, minus the depreciated value due to age or use. If you have Replacement Cost Coverage, the insurance company may first pay you the actual cash value. Once the item is repaired/replaced and receipt(s) submitted, the company will reimburse you the extra money you paid to replace/repair the item.

You should also know your policy limits (to make sure you are adequately insured) and if you have alternative coverages for alternative living expenses or business interruption. These coverages are also subject to a policy limit (and likely a time limit). 
Most policyholders wait until it is too late to properly document their property. Whether it is your home or your business, it is important to walk around the property and take photos to document its condition at least once a year – especially in the days leading up to a potential hurricane in the area.

If there is a storm that causes damage to your property, one of the insurance company’s most used arguments is that the damage already existed prior to the storm. Even if you had the same insurance company for years, they are only liable for damage that occurred during the policy period for which you file a claim. 

Given this, it is important to have as much evidence of the pre-existing condition of the property as possible. Thoroughly (albeit safely) document the condition of the roof, windows, walls, ceilings, etc. to the best of your ability. You never know when this evidence may be the support you need to get your claim fully and timely paid without an exhausting and frustrating fight.

The days leading up to a potential hurricane can be filled with uncertainty, worry, and stress. However, there are some things that remain in your control. In addition to documenting your property, it is best to decide on a game plan to brace for the storm and how to best protect your family and property. has compiled a helpful list of things to do and consider for hurricane preparedness. Specifically:

  • Protect your Personal Documents and Special Items.
  • Be Able to Pack all your Valuables within 15 Minutes. 
  • Build a Disaster Evacuation Kit. 
  • Flood Proof your Home/Business.
  • Develop a Family Evacuation Plan.
  • Safeguard your Home.
As soon as it is safe to do so, you should assess the damage to your property for your storm damage insurance claim. Photograph debris, broken windows, water intrusion, downed trees, and other damage to the structure of your property. Take reasonable steps to secure your property and mitigate against further damage, but do not start repairs without consulting with your insurance company.

Separate and inventory any damaged personal property. If possible, begin creating lists of any damaged contents, including a description of the item, approximate value, name of manufacturer, brand name, age, as well as the date and place of purchase, if known.  

Submitting a Claim

If you believe you have suffered any damage, you should submit a claim to your insurance company immediately. Depending on your carrier, you can either submit a claim through their website or your insurance agent.

Be sure to keep the names and contact information for each representative or adjuster you speak with and take notes of your conversations. When large catastrophes occur, insurers may hire independent contractors to adjust claims. It is important to keep in mind that the insurance adjuster works for the insurance company and not for you. Any insurance adjuster, including an independent contractor, may feel motivated to adjust claims quickly and with the insurance company’s financial interests in mind. If you believe your claim is not being investigated properly, you have the right to ask that a new adjuster be assigned. You also have the right to retain your own representation – such as an attorney or public adjuster – to handle your claim on your behalf.

If at any time, you feel like you are being treated unfairly or unreasonably, or the insurance company is unjustly undervaluing or denying your claim, you should seek advice from an attorney with experience handling hurricane insurance claims. Barcus Arenas, PLLC has significant experience handling hurricane-related insurance disputes. Michael Barcus and Aaron Arenas were born and raised in Houston, Texas, and know first-hand what destruction and devastation a hurricane can cause a community and its property owners.