The state of Florida is blessed with the most beautiful tropical climate. It is not called the Sunshine State for no reason! People from all over the country— the world even, flock to Florida in the winter in order to avoid the freezing cold and snow. What they do not realize, however, is that they may be jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
From May 15th until November 30th, Florida experiences what is called the “Hurricane Season”. Hurricane season is when the panhandle gets bombarded with tropical storms, flooding, and high winds. These storms can wreak quite a bit of havoc and disrupt your life. If you have experienced any sort of property damage or injury due to a hurricane, then you may need the services of a personal injury attorney who can help you file a claim for such.
It is quite ironic that when different areas of the country suffer a natural catastrophe, people from all over would get together and try to raise funds to help those who are affected. We saw it when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 and we are seeing it now with the wildfires in California. However, while these private citizens and private institutions are sending money to those who have suffered devastation because of natural calamities, a good number of insurance companies and other agencies are making it difficult to get the help we deserve. The sad reality is, they are complicating things for those who are in most need of help. If this has ever happened to you or if you are currently going through a similar experience, you may need to call a personal injury attorney who specializes in such cases.
What are the Types of Damages Caused by Hurricanes?
From 1980-2021, hurricanes have caused an estimated $2.511 trillion worth of damages in the United States. Below, let’s take a look at the most common property damages experienced during hurricanes:
- Roof damage – A category 4 hurricane with a wind speed of 130-156 mph has enough strength to tear off even the strongest of roofs. And if your roof was not very strong to begin with, then a hurricane of that strength can definitely rip it off. Once a roof has been ripped off, then your home loses one of its best protection, and the water and wind can get inside your home leading to further damage. Apart from roofs being torn off, windows can also be broken, and doors may be ripped from their places;
- Interior damage - Without a roof, windows, or doors to protect you from the water and winds brought by the hurricane can get into your home causing damage to your belongings. Furniture can get destroyed by water and wind damage, as well as your electronic belongings;
- Equipment damage – As water and wind get into our homes and property, our appliances and other electronic equipment such as televisions, washing machines, generators, air conditioning units, and many others can get wet and become irreparably damaged;
- Public utility damage – It’s not only the things inside our homes that are damaged, but also those that are meant for use by the public. Electrical, water, and telecommunications utilities may be damaged by the strong winds and rains during a hurricane. The damage may be enough to bring about an interruption of these services that could last from days to weeks.
In addition to the property damage you are most likely to suffer from because of a hurricane, keep in mind that you and your family are also susceptible to physical injuries. The most common injuries sustained during a hurricane are the following:
- Car accidents – During hurricanes, the tendency is for people to try to leave at-risk places immediately. By this time, streets are probably already flooded and traffic lights are already turned off, and street signs might have already been swept away by the strong winds and rains. A combination of all these factors increases your chances of getting hurt while on the road;
- Water-borne diseases and infections – flood water contains so much more than just mud and dirt from the streets. It may also contain harmful chemicals, as well as broken glass and other sharp objects that can wound you. Getting exposed to dirty flood water can lead to serious infection if not treated immediately;
- Food poisoning and dehydration – As hurricanes tend to bring about power outages, your home will likely lose power. Food that has been left in a refrigerator that has been turned off will likely go bad within a day and eating spoiled food can cause food poisoning to you and your family. Further, the absence of a clean drinking water source can lead to dehydration;
- Carbon monoxide poisoning – because of the power outages discussed earlier, some homes may opt to use a generator to power their homes. However, you must be careful with using one as it can release carbon monoxide into your home and inhalation of carbon monoxide can be fatal;
- Broken bones and heavy bleeding – naturally, people will want to prepare their homes for the upcoming hurricane. Oftentimes, these preparations will involve the use of a ladder, and falling from a ladder can cause serious injuries. On the other hand, when the storm is ongoing, the strong winds and heavy rains can cause people to trip and fall, also causing serious injuries.
If you suffered any form of property damage because of a hurricane, or if you or a member of your household suffered some serious injuries, you may need a personal injury lawyer by your side to make sure that you are rightfully compensated by your insurance company for such damage and injury.
Insurance Claims in Florida May Be Denied Following a Hurricane
Whether you own a home or business in Florida, you are required by law to maintain property insurance. In most areas, the law may require you to obtain flood insurance as well. The reason for this is that residents in Florida have suffered so much financial devastation because of hurricanes over the years. If you suffer property damage by reason of a hurricane, you should be entitled to file an insurance claim.
There are times that your insurance company will deny your claim. They find justification for doing this for a variety of different reasons, including:
- Your policy was not paid up to date – This is one of the most common reasons for any insurance claims denial. We all lead such busy lives that we forget to pay some of our pending bills. Protect yourself from an insurance claim denial by making sure that your policy payment is up to date;
- The company believes the damages were caused prior to the storm – This is known in legal and insurance jargon as pre-existing damage. Hurricane advisories are given days in advance, protect yourself from a denial of this kind by documenting your property prior to the hurricane. Take photos of your property and the condition that they are in so that you will have evidence to show the insurance company when you make your claim that the damage was in fact caused by the hurricane;
- The estimate you gave them is too high – Insurance companies will only pay for the actual damages caused to your home. Sometimes, even less. So if you put too high of an estimate, they will be likely to deny your claim. Having a personal injury lawyer with experience in property damage caused by hurricanes will definitely help you in your objective of getting the amount you are rightfully entitled to;
- The insurance company does not believe you did what was required to mitigate damage to your property – Naturally, property owners have the responsibility to secure their property prior to a hurricane. Insurance companies will investigate if you took the time to secure your home with the use of boards, sandbags, or tapes in order to prevent damage. Taking such steps and documenting that you did so will help you in establishing your claims.
If you’ve ever experienced a denial in your property insurance claim, you need to contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Fort Walton Beach. He can help appeal your claim and negotiate a settlement with the insurance company.
Always Follow Emergency Instructions Before, During and After a Hurricane
We understand how important your home or business is to you. However, your life and your safety are more important and your home or business are worth nothing if you are not around to enjoy them. It is always important that you and the people around you follow any emergency instructions given before, during and after a hurricane. Some of these instructions are:
- Have a family emergency plan in place – By this, we mean always have your emergency contacts such as your local police station, firehouse, and hospitals, nearby. Do your research on where the nearest evacuation center in your area is. Have a go-bag for each family member containing essential things such as food, water, flashlight, extra batteries, extra clothing, toiletries such as soap and shampoo, first-aid kit, and keep them in a place that is easily accessible. Ideally, your home should have at least 3-5 days' worth of food and water as looting tends to happen during calamities and there might not be any left for you at stores. If there is a baby in the family, you will also need to stock up on their needs to such as food and diapers.There will most definitely be a power outage during the hurricane, so make sure all phones in your household are fully charged before that happens and also have portable chargers with you;
- Always abide by mandatory evacuation plans – While this is far from the ideal situation, there may be a need for you and your family to evacuate. Be prepared to do that by knowing where the nearest evacuation center in your area is, and by having the go-bags discussed above ready. Prior to the hurricane, make sure that you have a full tank of gas. If you must leave your home, be sure to turn off the water, gas, and electricity, and unplug all of your appliances.
- Take advantage of safe havens offered by your community – this includes hospitals and local fire stations;
- Safeguard your home with boards, sandbags, and tape as instructed – As discussed earlier, doing this is the minimum to ensure that you and your property are safe from hurricane damage. Doing this will also lessen the likelihood that your claim will be denied by the insurance company.
- Keep children and pets inside at all times during a hurricane – You have to make sure that while the storm is raging, all of the members of your family, your pets included, are safe and dry inside your residence. This will lessen the chances of anyone getting seriously injured;
- Do not drive unless it is a medical emergency – We discussed above that you should fill your car up with gas prior to the hurricane, in case you need to leave your home. However, you must only leave your home if it is an absolute necessity to do so, like medical emergencies or if you are required to evacuate. By following the instructions on stocking up on food and other necessities, you are lessening the need for you or any member of your family to go out.
If you take these precautions, you have a higher chance of keeping you and your family safe. Always remember to review local ordinances, suggestions, and advisories prior to the start of any major storm in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
Contact a Personal Injury Attorney in Fort Walton Beach, Florida
If you have suffered damages in a hurricane, you may need to contact a personal injury attorney in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Your lawyer can help negotiate with your insurance company following a hurricane. The important thing is that you are patient and keep your priorities in order. The personal safety of you and your family is more important than anything else!
Contact a personal injury lawyer today to schedule your initial consultation. The consultation is FREE and you pay nothing until you settle your claim.