Your home or business suffered damage in a hurricane, but the insurance company says you have “preexisting damage” and won’t cover the insurance claim. What’s going on, and what can you do?
At the Voss Law Firm, we have seen firsthand how often insurance companies use any excuse possible to get out of paying a legitimate insurance claim. Instead, they often deny claims to save money. Many people who have been denied by their insurers don’t know that they can appeal the company’s decision and fight back. This includes claims denied due to “preexisting damage,” “maintenance,” or “wear and tear.”
What to Do If Your Hurricane Insurance Claim Has Been Denied Due to Maintenance Issues or Previous Damage
Property insurance policies are designed to cover losses from sudden events, such as hurricanes. However, even if you did sustain some hurricane-related losses, property insurance companies typically will not cover any losses involving:
- Lack of appropriate maintenance
- Issues that existed before you bought your property
- Wear and tear over time
- Damage from lack of temporary repairs after a loss
You may also run into trouble with a claim for hurricane losses if you previously received compensation for a different insurance claim on that part of your house. For example, you can’t file a claim on a roof you received reimbursement to repair if you didn’t actually follow through with that maintenance at the time.
If your claim was denied because the insurance company believes your hurricane damage was actually preexisting, take a hard look at the truth. If the damage really was your fault, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to recoup the full amount of your losses. There are a lot of reasons a hurricane insurance claim may be legitimately denied, and there may be little that a home or business owner can do if the insurance company says their losses fall under a “preexisting damage” exclusion.
However, if you have read over your policy and believe your claim has been unfairly denied or wrongly blamed on old damages, don’t give up. Instead, pursue your questions about the denial with an experienced insurance litigation lawyer. An attorney can look at your policy, review the decision, and help you understand the reason your claim was denied. If he or she determines your claim has been unfairly denied, then the attorney can communicate with the insurance company, have an outside expert look at your home, and build a case for you to receive the compensation you and your family deserve. Hurricane insurance claims are underpaid or unfairly denied more often than most policyholders know, and it’s always worth digging deeper into your rights if you’re unsure.
How to Avoid Preexisting Property Damage Denials in the Future
Insurance companies generally set out strict rules about preexisting damage, whether you’re buying insurance for a new home or already have a homeowner’s policy in place. If you’re concerned or live in a hurricane-prone area, there are a few steps you can take to help avoid denials for preexisting damage:
- Review your insurance coverage. Understand how your insurance policy handles preexisting damage and maintenance issues. If you aren’t sure, even after reading through your current policy, call your insurer directly for clarification on your coverage.
- Inspect your property regularly. After all, if you don’t know there is a potential problem or that you previously sustained a loss, you can’t expect your insurance company to know—or to pay.
- Pay special attention to your roof. It’s easy to miss small leaks or tears that can eventually lead to major damage. Roof damage is the main reason for hurricane insurance claims, aside from damage caused from a storm surge. Hurricane winds can lift shingles, puncture roofing material, and even remove or shift the entire roof.
- Take “before” photos. Most people end up taking “after” photos of hurricane damage when it happens, but “before” condition photos make it easy to show damage did not exist before the storm. Take pictures or shoot video of your home and property before storm season starts, date the footage, and retain this documentation just in case it’s needed for an insurance claim.
- Bring in a professional. A roofing or repair professional can not only help you inspect your home for hard-to-spot problems, but also repair gaps and holes, secure loose roof shingles or siding, and even install precautions such as hurricane straps. If you’ve already sustained damage from a hurricane, a professional can also help provide thorough assessments and estimates for insurance purposes.
Precautions provide peace-of-mind, but hurricanes and tropical storms can still wreak havoc on your home and cause damage. If you are denied insurance claim coverage or getting the runaround from your insurer, please call the Voss Law Firm at 1-888-614-7730 to set up a free strategy and review session with a skilled insurance claim attorney.