If your home was damaged in a hurricane, you likely have many questions about insurance claims, the right steps to take, and what your rights are. Below, you’ll find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about hurricane claims in Louisiana:
1. I don’t have a lot of damage, so why should I make a claim or call a lawyer?
Many of the types of damages caused by hurricanes are not obvious. It often requires an expert or specialist to identify them. Most lawyers representing homeowners for hurricane claims will provide professional adjusters, inspectors and contractors at no up front charge to you, so there is nothing to lose except the chance to identify a problem now and have your insurance pay for it, as it should.
2. Will my premium go up if I make a claim?
No, it won’t. This is a common misconception and many insurance companies imply that your premium will go up if you make a claim, but it is not true when a named storm such as Ida has caused damage. It’s actually smarter to make a claim, even if you have minimal damage, because should another named storm hit in the same calendar year, the first, albeit smaller claim, will assist with meeting your deductible.
3. Can my insurance company cancel my policy if I make a claim?
No, insurance companies cannot use your making a claim as a reason to cancel your policy and in some cases, it is illegal under Louisiana law for them to do so.
4. Should I hire my own adjuster?
Maybe. If you hire an adjuster yourself, then you have to pay them whether or not you are successful in obtaining payment from your insurance company over your deductible. If you hire an attorney on a contingency basis, generally the adjuster is paid either from the insurance proceeds or by the attorney directly if they are not able to obtain any additional amounts from the insurer on your behalf. Retaining an attorney in this regard creates no risk for you to come further out of pocket on your claim.
5. Should I get estimates to provide to my insurer?
No, it’s best to wait to have your insurer estimate damage first before providing estimates you got from a contractor. If you give them an estimate, you’ve just imposed a limit of recovery for that type of damage. Remember, it is the insurance company’s job to fairly evaluate your damages. When you provide estimates, you are capping your damages and doing the insurance company’s job for them.
6. What does “unconditional tender” mean?
It means that once the insurance company says your damage is “X” amount above your deductible, they have to pay you, even if you are telling them you think they should pay more. If they don’t pay you timely once they’ve admitted your damage is “X” amount then they can be liable for bad faith.
7. Can I deposit this check that the insurance company sent me even though I think it’s not enough?
Yes, but don’t sign anything else they send you without first speaking with a lawyer. Double check to make sure the check does not say “full and final,” then sign the check to deposit it. Unlike what the insurance company is making you think you need to do, you do not have to provide any specific insurance form, affidavit, or proof of loss in order to trigger their evaluation of your damages. They cannot make you sign something as a condition for receiving or depositing a check. The insurance company has to evaluate your claim and pay you any amount over your deductible. Period. You can deposit the money and continue with your claim.
8. If I hire a lawyer, how much is it going to cost me?
Different lawyers charge different amounts. It’s never a bad idea to speak to several different lawyers about what they charge before making a decision on who to hire. It’s also important to ask specifically what the lawyer intends to do with your claim. Is that firm actually handling your claim or are they just collecting cases and sending them to some other firm to handle? Are they going to advance costs of paying adjusters and experts at their own risk? Are they taking a fee on money you’ve already gotten the insurance company to pay? Make sure you know what you are getting for giving up a percentage of your claim to an attorney.
9. Am I obligated to use the money from my claim to repair my home?
The insurance company has no say in how you use your money; however, your mortgage company may require you to make certain repairs to protect its collateral in your home.
10. When can I begin repairing my house?
You have an obligation to do something called “mitigation of damages,” which means you have to do your best to stop additional damage from occurring. So, for those types of repairs (i.e. blue tarp, boarding up a blown out window, etc.), you should make those repairs immediately, after making sure to document the damage. Other repairs can wait until you have received payment from the insurance company.
If you choose to begin repairs before the insurance company has evaluated your damages, remember what was said in Question #5. You are now locking in your damages. If the insurance company has not come out to evaluate your damages before you start repairs, take many many pictures/videos of the damage, the debris, water spots, mold, etc. so that you do not destroy evidence of the damage without proper documentation.
11. How long do I have to wait to get a check from the insurance company?
It depends, but after the insurance company has sufficient proof of loss (i.e. they have enough information to quantify your damages), they have 30 days to pay you or they are in bad faith.
12. How long is this process going to take?
It depends. Insurance companies make easy and obvious payments really quickly so they look good. For homeowners that get shortchanged and contest the scope of damages that should be repaired, most claims are resolved between six months and a year from when you hire an attorney. For cases where coverage is completely denied and litigation is required, it can take even longer.
13. The check has my mortgage company on it. What do I do?
You need to get their permission to deposit it. Most mortgage companies have a division that handles such items. Call your mortgage company, tell them what you need, they will direct you accordingly. For local companies, go by a branch.
14. I already fixed my roof but have higher quotes from other roofers, can I submit the higher quotes to my insurance company?
You cannot lie to your insurance company — that’s called insurance fraud. However, there are several circumstances where the insurance company is obligated to pay you more than you may end up paying to fix something. You also cannot get a friend/contractor to give you a high quote, with an agreement to pay less later, just to inflate your damages. That is equally insurance fraud, which is a crime.
This is another really good reason to speak with an attorney to make sure you’re not doing anything illegal, because hurricane claim attorneys have probably handled a claim similar to yours and know the best way to approach it.
Have More Questions About Hurricane Claims? Contact JJC Law
You deserve to be made whole if your property has been damaged by a hurricane. Whether an insurance company is undervaluing your claim, unfairly delaying payment or outright denying the claim, the New Orleans hurricane claim lawyers at JJC Law are here to fight for you.
Our initial consultations are free, and we will handle your hurricane insurance claim on a contingency fee basis, meaning you pay nothing unless you recover. Call us today at (504) 513-8820 or contact us online to get answers to your questions about Louisiana hurricane claims.