In 2012, Hurricane Sandy swept across the Eastern Seaboard, causing estimated personal property damage and business losses of $75 billion. As the second-costliest storm in United States history, Hurricane Sandy would have put countless homeowners and business owners on the street if they did not have the insurance coverage they needed to recoup their losses. While this storm has passed, attorney Bill Voss warns that future hurricanes may be just as deadly—and landowners should ensure their policies provide the coverage they would need to move on before the next storm hits.
How Much of Your Hurricane Property Damage Will Be Covered by Your Insurance?
The first thing business owners must understand about commercial insurance claims for hurricane losses is that coverage can vary widely depending on the policy they have chosen. It is also important to note that coverage for each type of damage may be available under several different policies, and policyholders should carefully review the fine print before choosing which insurer should pay the claim. Finally, it never pays to assume that your policy covers all types of damage, so it may be worth buying additional policies (such as business interruption insurance or flood damage) to fill any gaps in coverage.
Even if the damage to your business should be covered under your policy, there is no guarantee of fast or fair payment. A commercial hurricane claim can face delays and underpayment due to:
- Disagreements over cause. Hurricanes can cause damage in a variety of ways, including wind, rain, hail, flooding, lightning, power outages, or even looting and vandalism. If your insurer does not specifically spell out which perils are covered under your claim, the company may use the ambiguous terms in your policy to deny coverage. Coverage may be further complicated if one or more perils led to damage, such as wind that tears off a roof and the water that damages the structure.
- Slow responses. Hurricanes can wreak havoc across several states, causing insurers to be flooded with claims. Although insurance companies inundated with hundreds or thousands of insurance claims will most likely deny some claims, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t file for your damages. In fact, it means you should be vigilant about filing for coverage, documenting as much evidence of the damage as you can and submitting your claim as quickly as possible.
- Insurer inspections. Insurers will typically send an inspector to assess the damage, but this representative is also in a position to gather evidence against the person making the claim. An inspector will complete a detailed report about the cause of the damage, the condition of your property, and anything a property owner may have done that could have contributed to the losses. It is advisable to have your legal counsel present during the on-site inspection to answer any questions about the claim.
- Low offers. Insurers know they will face many claims after a large-scale disaster, and paying the lowest amount possible on each claim will help them protect their profits. If you have received a lowball offer, it could be an indication that the insurer knows your claim has merit, but is attempting to resolve the claim for less than its full value.
If you are unsure what is covered under your commercial insurance policy, the best thing to do is to take it out and read it. Make sure you also read the fine print so that you understand what is and isn’t covered under your policy. If you don’t have the time to spend reading your insurance policy, you may want to engage the help of a skilled commercial insurance attorney to help you with the details.
If you have suffered business losses due to a hurricane, you need to find out what compensation you may be entitled to. Fill out the form on this page today to contact an attorney at the Voss Law Firm and get your business back up and running again. For more information on your claim, order a free copy of our book, Commercial Property Owners Must Read This BEFORE Filing an Insurance Claim.