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Miami Florida Insurance Claim Law Blog

Insurance is critical in Florida hurricanes

Hurricanes can be costly for many homeowners in Florida who rely on insurance policies to pay for damages after a serious storm. Indeed, Florida storms extract a financial cost as well as a physical one. Between 1987 and 2016, damages from storms in Florida comprised 13 of all insured losses across the country. While hurricanes can strike elsewhere, six of the 10 most damaging hurricanes in the nation's history hit Florida during at least part of their paths. In 2004 and 2005 alone, four of these storms hit the state, inflicting damage on top of existing damage.

While there continue to be more big storms in Florida, a 1992 hurricane continues to hold the title of the costliest: Andrew, which caused $25.4 billion in damage when adjusted for inflation. Hurricanes can cause damage to state and federal institutions as well as private homes and businesses; military bases, roads and other installations have been hard-hit by previous storms. However, homeowners generally rely on their insurance policies to cover their losses, and they pay a hefty price for the privilege. Premiums in Florida can be much more expensive than they are elsewhere. Homeowners insurance policies often cover wind damage, hail damage, roof problems and other issues caused by storms but exclude flood coverage.

Floridians still suffering from Hurricane Michael

It seems like Floridians must worry about the possibility of storm damage after a serious hurricane every year. Many residents count on their insurance companies to help them negate their losses and rebuild after a hurricane. Nevertheless, thousands of property owners in Florida are still waiting for payments from Hurricane Michael, which struck in October 2018.

In a meeting with Florida Governor Ron Desantis, one of the state's top insurance regulators said that approximately 15% of all claims due to Hurricane Michael have yet to be paid. This amounts to around 21,000 claims still waiting to be settled. Most of them originated in the panhandle region, an area hit especially hard by Hurricane Michael.

The cost of outdated maps on Florida homeowners

Florida homeowners must always be concerned about the possibility of hurricane damage. In doing so, they often rely on flood maps from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) to help them determine the amount and type of insurance they should carry. However, the agency hasn't updated many of its maps in quite some time, resulting in a number of Sunshine State residents being seriously underinsured.

The problem is more prevalent along the state's panhandle and was magnified in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. For example, the city of Mexico Beach was nearly devastated by Michael, yet the majority of affected structures were underinsured.

Bowing on your windows? That's a problem

If you notice that your windows are bowing, then there is an immediate need to find out the cause. Whether it's a natural disaster like high winds or a torrential downpour, bowing can be a sign that your windows have been damaged.

Warped windows are not going to provide the protection that your home deserves. You might notice that the edges are pulling away from the walls or that water is leaking in when it rains. You might notice a chill or breeze sneaking in through the window frame, too.

It may be difficult to get tax relief after a storm

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed the tax treatment of property damage caused by floods and other natural disasters. Florida residents may only be able to claim a deduction for damage that occurs during a federally recognized disaster. Hurricanes and other tropical storms can cause damage throughout a large portion of the country. In July 2019, Hurricane Barry made landfall in Louisiana but caused flooding in portions of New York state.

To claim losses related to property damage on a tax return, the cost of repairs must be more than 10% of a claimant's adjusted gross income. Furthermore, only losses that were not reimbursed by an insurance company are eligible to be claimed as an itemized deduction. In some cases, homeowners won't be entitled to a property damage deduction because they will choose to take the standard deduction instead.

Just one more year to file Hurricane Irma insurance claims

Florida residents who own homes that sustained damage during Hurricane Irma are getting close to the time when they will need to file an insurance claim if they want help funding recovery costs. They have three years from the time a hurricane makes landfall to notify their insurers about claims related to damage or loss. Irma made landfall on Sept. 10, 2017, so home and property owners have just a little over a year left to file their claim.

Many insurance companies request that home and property owners submit claims as soon as they are aware their property has sustained damage. However, it is not always possible to detect hurricane damage right away. This is especially the case when it comes to roof damage.

How homeowners can protect themselves financially

Florida residents may not be ready for the financial losses a natural disaster such as a hurricane could cause. In 2018, they caused $160 billion in damage throughout the country. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there have been nine weather events that have caused over $1 billion in damages through July 2019. NOAA predicts that there could be up to 15 named tropical storms in 2019.

As many as eight of those storms could become hurricanes, which means that they have sustained winds of up to 74 miles per hour. While having homeowners insurance can help protect a person in the aftermath of such a storm, it is only part of an overall preparedness plan. This is because individuals in Florida will likely need to pay a hurricane deductible, and the deductible can equal up to 5% of the home's value.

State funds to aid Keys' hurricane recovery

The Florida Keys will receive a new influx of funds to help the islands recover from Hurricane Irma. According to Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Keys will receive $21 million to help deal with hurricane damage and an additional $35 million investment in affordable housing. The state's Department of Emergency Management is providing the funds to reimburse Monroe County's expenses from the September 2017 hurricane when it spent millions on repairing damage, removing debris and taking emergency measures to protect other facilities.

In addition, the housing funds aim to address issues sparked by the hurricane. It comes as part of a state program designed to increase the level of affordable housing for the area's workforce. In the Keys, an existing shortfall of accessible housing was worsened by the effects of the hurricane. The funds are being administered by the Florida Housing Finance corporation as part of the Rebuild Florida program sponsored by the state's Department of Economic Opportunity.

Reasons for spike in hailstorm losses not clear

Most homeowners in Florida are aware of the potential for hailstorm damage, especially during the summer months when storms that can produce frozen rain are more likely to occur. But something odd happened in 2008: That year, nationwide hail-related losses passed the $19 billion mark in inflation-adjusted dollars. This figure was a big jump from previous figures of $8 billion to $12 billion. However, this spike wasn't a one-time anomaly.

The higher-than-normal totals for hailstorm losses remained around the same level for the next decade. Both weather-watchers and insurance experts have no clear explanation for why this trend started in 2008. One theory is that larger hailstones and greater storm frequencies reported post-2008 may be a factor contributing to the rising costs. Even so, 2011 is the only year since the higher costs were first noted that had a dramatic increase in the number of hailstorms that occurred.

Damaged home? Start repairs and then make your claim

You recently suffered damage to your home during one of the major storms that passed through. You called your insurance company about the damage, but they seem to be giving you the run around. You would continue to wait for them to give you a payment to fix your home, but you're worried that waiting longer will just make the damage more serious.

You're in a similar situation to what many people in America face when trying to work with an insurance company. Sometimes, they handle claims slowly in the hope that you'll drop your claim completely. Other times, they're simply slow at processing claims, but those delays open your home up to more damage.

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