When a hurricane hits the Miami area, residents know the drill. Buy plywood and board up properties, clear the store shelves of bread and toilet paper (and liquor – can’t forget that), gas up the genny and/or hunker down around candles. It’s what we do, and just part of the trade-off for living the sweet life in the American tropics.
But as we witnessed during this year’s just-ended hurricane season, there are hurricanes . . . and there are catastrophic events that can cause damage so extensive that home- and business owners may be wiped out.
As stated in an earlier blog, business owners and homeowners need to act quickly after a natural disaster or other incident in which they are making a claim. It’s an unfortunate fact that frequently claims that don’t satisfactorily settle within three months can linger in the legal system for up to a decade.
That doesn’t mean take whatever is offered
Insurance companies are always going to low-ball their claimants. Even though you may refer to someone as “my insurance agent,” don’t be fooled for a minute. He’s not working for you and doesn’t have your best interest at heart. His loyalties lie with his employer – the insurance company that will always try to settle their claims for the least amount of money claimants will accept.
Why do insurance companies drag out the claims process?
It’s simple. They try to wear down their clients. Suppose you had a fire that destroyed your home. You and your family (and pets, if you have them) must suddenly secure emergency housing. The insurance company might initially put you up in a hotel (unless you have a 98-lb. Weimaraner or a kaboodle of cats).
But hotel-living can get old very fast. You could be miles from the kids’ school district and not on the bus routes any longer. It could jeopardize your job, needing to take time off of work to bring the kids to and from school. Extracurricular activities and social events are now a logistical nightmare. You want your old life back, including your home.
Insurers realize this and use it to their advantage. Dragging their feet on the claims process is quite intentional. Pretty soon you may be so frustrated that you throw up your hands in disgust and accept far less than the true value of your claim.
If you’re going to sign, don’t sign the “White Waiver”
Until and unless you have filed an insurance claim for damage, you likely have never heard of a white waiver. They are often used in claims involving a fire, especially if arson is suspected.
Signing a white waiver means that if the insurance company offered you “X” amount to pay out your claim, if the contested matter winds up in court, you are not allowed to state the amount of their offer – or even that they tendered an offer, in some cases. This is another dirty tactic used by insurance companies, and one indication that you are in for a long fight before you get your money.
Fight back against unjust settlement offers
They say that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and this is true with insurance claimants. Don’t let your insurance company steamroll over you. Legal professionals in the Miami area can assist you with your claim so that you stand a better chance of getting what it’s truly worth.