Hurricane Irma- Where Are We Now?

Statewide, 978,767 claims were filed due to Hurricane Irma with a total estimated amount of damages of $9.7 billion. The hurricane barrelled through the state 9 months ago causing an extensive amount of property damage related to high winds and floods. 

So, where are we now? Here’s what we’ve seen. 

Carriers have been denying insureds’ claims using age-related wear, tear, and deterioration as an exclusion. Here, the carriers have taken the position that the damages to insureds’ properties are excluded from coverage because of the age of the property and the insureds’ failures to maintain their properties. This exclusion is commonly being used on properties that have older roofs as a means for denial of coverage. 

If the carrier does decide to pay the Hurricane Irma claims, they typically only pay for repairs and not a full replacement of the damaged property. This is commonly seen on roof claims. With these claims that the carrier does afford coverage for, the carrier asserts that the roof only requires a partial repair instead of a full roof replacement. Many times, the payment is insufficient to actually perform the roof repair the carrier is paying their insureds for. The most difficult part to accept is that in certain situations, the field adjuster that inspected the property on the carrier’s behalf actually wrote an estimate which included a full roof replacement which was later modified by a desk adjuster within the insurance company that never went out to the property. 

It has now been almost a full 9 months since most Hurricane Irma claims have been reported and many insureds are finding themselves still living in damaged properties with a new hurricane season underway and water making its way into the property each time it rains. Most insureds are genuinely afraid, and rightfully so. The carriers have put insureds in a position where they are living in properties with compromised roofs during a time when a second hurricane can potentially make landfall, putting their families’ and their safety at risk. This isn’t an accident. 

Carriers are capitalizing on the insureds’ fears. They know that the longer the process takes and the more into hurricane season we get, insureds will grow desperate and impatient and accept significantly less than what they are entitled to just to secure their properties and safety before another storm potentially comes. This “deny and defend” strategy on the carrier’s part is an easy way for them to save money and limit their overall exposure from the hurricane.

So which claims have been getting resolved? Typically, smaller value claims under a $50,000.00 threshold are the claims that have been getting resolved in an expedited fashion. Why? Because it’s simply not worth the investment on the carrier’s part to fight and drag these out. It’s the law of diminishing returns. 

What can insureds do? Be informed and patient. Don’t let the carrier force you to abandon your claim. The difference can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. This could be the difference between a full, well-done replacement of all damaged property in your home with a warranty from the contractor or an ineffective repair to your property with no guarantee.

There’s a saying in Spanish, “Lo barato sale caro.” The literal translation of this is, “The cheap turns out expensive.” This rings especially true with property repairs. There is no corner cutting with repairs to your property. You have to live in it, not the carrier.