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Miami Florida Insurance Claim Law Blog

State budget could include hurricane damage projects

Florida's next state budget may include a number of proposals to address damages caused by Hurricane Michael. Legislators have proposed repairs to the Mexico Beach Pier and Florida State University among over 100 projects that aim to repair damage caused by the October 2018 hurricane that swept through Northwest Florida. Over $500 million in budget requests have been made dealing with hurricane-related problems as well as proposals to bolster building safety in case of future damaging storms.

There have been a total of over 1,300 budget bills filed for the annual Florida legislative session, which will begin on March 5. In total, the bills comprise $2.5 billion worth of projects, meaning that one-fifth of them deal with hurricane damage and related expenses. Some of the proposals include $21 million to restore municipal operations in Panama City, $8.5 million for the Mexico Beach Pier and $1.73 million for Florida State University. A total of $54.9 million is being sought to address ongoing impacts on Bay County schools, including effects on employment in the area. Three schools were closed in the county after the hurricane as students and their families were displaced from the area due to a lack of housing. Local officials hope to reopen the schools as people return home.

Homeowners insurance may not cover water damage

Most Florida homeowners would carry homeowners insurance even if it was not mandated by the terms of the mortgage loan on the property. After all, the family home is typically the single most valuable asset owned, and repairs for any damage to the home or liability for any incidents on the premises can be extremely costly. Among the types of losses that may occur, damage done by water poses a risk that can be very expensive to recover from. However, to the chagrin and surprise of some homeowners who proceed to file a claim, not all water damage is covered under the standard homeowner's policy.

Although there are some exceptions, most people never read their insurance policies, and if they do, it's only after the fact of a loss. Insurance experts point out that a first step before filing a claim is to verify the specific incident that occurred is covered and not excluded. Too often, a homeowner simply assumes a loss will be reimbursed, but clear language of the policy dictates otherwise.

The process of filing a claim after a hurricane

Florida residents who have been impacted by a hurricane could experience significant commercial or residential property damage. While insurance companies may cover some or all of the cost of such damage, this isn't always true. The first step a property owner should take is to read his or her policy to determine what is covered and what isn't. Generally speaking, flood insurance is sold separate from homeowners or similar policies.

The policy should explain the procedure for making a claim and how long a policyholder has to make it. Furthermore, it should explain whether there is a deductible and how much it is. A deductible is the amount a policyholder must pay before the insurance company is liable for covering additional costs.

Federal funds to help with hurricane damage recovery

Florida residents may be pleased to learn that debris cleanup from Hurricane Michael will continue to be reimbursed by the federal government. Communities in the Panhandle area of the state will reportedly save hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of the federal decision, said the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Earlier, the eastern Panhandle had been directed to choose five days of cleanup from the storm to receive full federal reimbursement of all costs. However, this 5-day period was extended to 45 days after a meeting between state officials and President Trump.

Hurricane damage continues to be a problem throughout the state, and the press conference announcing the change was made in front of the damaged headquarters of the Jackson County Road Department. The Oct. 10 storm caused significant damage to public facilities, businesses and homes throughout the area. The state also announced that it intends to continue to seek federal funds to support cleanup efforts, including an increase in debris reimbursement from 75 percent to 90 percent. Several Northwest Florida politicians said that they feared support would dry up now that attention has shifted away from the storm.

Do you have a bad faith claim against your insurer?

In the modern world, insurance policies are an important part of guarding against disaster or unforeseen difficulty. Depending on the complexity of your life and your assets, you may have numerous insurance policies that cover many different areas. Unfortunately for many policy holders, insurance companies often value their own bottom line above the needs of their customers, leading them to look for any reason they can find to avoid paying out whenever possible.

In fact, some insurers deny claims that they should approve, placing pressure on the policy holders to prove they deserve compensation. This is a fundamental violation of their relationship with the policy holder, known as a bad faith claim. If you believe that your insurer violated your contract by denying your claim, you should examine the specifics carefully. You may find a bad faith claim that deserves payment, and the sooner the better.

Insurers accused of needlessly slowing Florida hurricane recovery

Both homeowners and contractors in Florida say they are experiencing frustrating delays from insurers as efforts to rebuild and recover from Hurricane Michael continue. However, some insurance providers are refuting these claims, stating that initial low estimates may be corrected later. They assert that it takes time to make appropriate adjustments. Still, some homeowners in hurricane-damaged neighborhoods remain frustrated with the claims process.

Homeowners, contractors, lawyers and public adjusters gathered during a town hall meeting in Panama City Beach on Jan. 16 to vent their frustrations about the hurricane damage claims. A contractor trade advocacy group hosted the event for the purpose of giving homeowners and local contractors a chance to express their concerns. Some of the attendees claim insurers are using delay tactics to put off making payments. One homeowner reported having repair quotes totaling more than $200,000 while only receiving $40,000 from their insurance company.

Florida legislature tallies cost of Hurricane Michael

Florida lawmakers have begun the process of estimating the damages to the mostly rural and low-income Panhandle region that bore the brunt of Hurricane Michael in October 2018. The state senate's Banking and Insurance Committee chairman said that the state needed to gather figures about the short and long-term costs of the storm to evaluate what the state could pay for and what was needed from the federal government.

As of January, 102,000 people had applied for storm relief and 16 counties met the criteria for federal aid. Massive agricultural damages have been reported to the state. The 155 mph hurricane winds of the Category 4 storm destroyed cotton crops and inflicted near total losses on oyster farming operations. The storm struck a heavy blow to the timber industry. Downed trees across 2.8 million acres of forest will take decades to regrow for harvest. Timber farmers have projected their losses at $1.3 billion.

Losses from Hurricane Michael total $6.5 billion

On Oct. 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael destroyed a portion of the Florida Panhandle, killing more than 40 people and inflicting at least $6.5 billion in property losses. As many as 375,000 people were forced to evacuate prior to the storm's arrival. Since that time, there have been more than 135,000 property insurance claims filed, and at least 100,000 people and 16 counties are seeking assistance through federal and state agencies.

In addition to the destruction experienced by homeowners and businesses, around 3 million acres of forests and agricultural lands were destroyed, including approximately $1.3 billion in lost timber that led to almost $1.5 billion in crop damage. The destruction was widespread, affecting cotton farmers, oyster farmers, cattle ranchers and those in the lumber industry. In addition to crops, the storm also caused more than $43 million in cattle losses and more than $16 million in poultry losses.

Continuing delays for Hurricane Michael insurance claims

Thousands of Florida homeowners are still waiting for much-needed insurance payouts from the damages caused by Hurricane Michael. The state's insurance commissioner called on insurance companies to take action to close the over 42,000 outstanding hurricane damage claims related to the storm that hit Florida in October 2018. The commissioner issued a letter to insurers, reminding them that undisputed homeowners' insurance claims must be paid out within 90 days of receipt under state insurance laws.

Hurricane Michael was almost a Category 5 storm, and it cost more than $4.5 billion in insured damages. The largest category of hurricane damage claims were made by residential property owners, most commonly against their homeowners' insurance policies. According to state statistics, 88,624 of these residential claims were filed with insurance companies, and 68.9 percent of them had been closed by Dec. 14. On the other hand, 68.3 percent of outstanding business insurance claims had been closed by the same date. State officials urged insurance companies to step up their customer service solutions in order to expedite the claims efficiently. The commissioner suggested establishing mobile offices or even taking on additional staff.

Don't let an insurance company deny your claim unfairly

When it began to rain last night, you didn't think very much about it. You had checked the weather report, and it appeared that this would just be a small shower. Unfortunately, the weather report was not correct. You were involved in a storm with high winds that were relatively unexpected.

There are numerous types of storms that could affect your home in Florida. There are hailstorms, thunderstorms, lightning storms and storms that spawn tornadoes. You could be involved in a hurricane or tropical storm as well.

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