Texas residents are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, which brought devastation and flooding to Houston and the surrounding areas. Although it’s hard to know where to begin picking up the pieces after one of the largest hurricanes in U.S. history, Attorney Bill Voss offers these tips for business owners to maximizing insurance payouts and avoid surprises during the claims process.
Steps to Take After Hurricane Harvey Has Damaged or Destroyed Your Business
In addition to low offers, higher hurricane deductibles, and unfair denials, commercial customers face a number of insurance problems while recovering from Hurricane Harvey. However, there are many things policyholders can do to increase the odds of fast and fair resolution to their claims—and if the insurer is not fulfilling its promises, there are also options available to force them to stick to their agreements.
In order to get fair payment for your hurricane losses, the Voss Law Firm, P.C., recommends that you:
- Read your coverage. All policyholders should understand the basics of their coverage, including exceptions to coverage, whether the policy guarantees actual cash value for hurricane losses, and your responsibilities when making a claim.
- Gather all of your policies. It is not uncommon for business owners to have multiple policies that offer several forms of coverage. A homeowner’s policy may cover damage to a home office, and flooding that is excluded from commercial policies may be covered by a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policy.
- Understand specialty forms. There is a big difference between basic coverage and paying for optional extras to your policy. Many types of coverage that can help businesses recover from a major disaster (such as loss of business income or umbrella coverage) are offered as an “add-on” form of coverage that must be selected and added to your existing policy.
- Secure the property. You should visit your property to make a list of lost and damaged items, and to sure that an inspector can safely make an assessment of the damage. You should not make any long-term repairs or cleanup efforts before the insurance inspector has had a chance to make a report. However, you should make any temporary repairs needed to secure the property.
- Calculate your total losses carefully. Too many business owners underestimate the full cost of their damage after a major storm, making it easier for the insurer to devalue the claim. Your claim should not just include structural and property damage, but additional covered losses such as business interruption, upgrades, and relocation.
- Look for additional help. Even if all of your policies have been exhausted, there are still other potential sources of assistance available after a major disaster. Government-sponsored programs offer everything from temporary shelters to low-interest loans to help residents recover and rebuild after a hurricane.
- Appoint an insurance liaison. You will need a contact person to handle all communication and documentation with the insurance company on your behalf. This may take a significant portion of time, and will involve weeks if not months of follow-up.
- Challenge any unprofessional behavior. Insurers are often inundated with claims after a disaster, making it difficult for each claimant to get prompt payment for their losses. In many cases, it will fall to the policyholder to negotiate with the insurance company, prove the full extent of damage, and challenge any denials or delays—all while the business suffers loss of income with each passing day.
Hurricane Harvey alone caused several billion dollars’ worth of damage to homes and businesses, many of which will never recover from the storm. It is highly unethical for an insurance company to collect insurance premiums from their customers for years only to abandon them after a major disaster. Our insurance attorneys at the Voss Law Firm can help you prioritize your needs throughout recovery, maximize the amount of your settlement, and get you the funds you need to rebuild. Simply fill out the contact form on this page today to have your questions answered in your free case review, or order a free copy of our book, Commercial Property Owners Must Read This BEFORE Filing an Insurance Claim.