Frequently Asked Claims Questions

Information from Hurricane Lawyers, New Orleans, Louisiana

  1. Does my adjuster have the final say on the amount I can recover for my hurricane insurance claim?
  2. What can a hurricane attorney do for me?
  3. How much does a hurricane attorney cost?
  4. What is proof of loss?
  5. What is business interruption loss?
  6. How do I get more for my building damage when making a hurricane insurance claim?
  7. How do I get more for my personal property loss when making a hurricane insurance claim?
  8. Should I use my own contractor to submit an estimate in support of my hurricane insurance claim?
  9. Should I handle my hurricane damage claim myself?
  10. What is an “appraisal” of my hurricane damage?
  11. What is recoverable depreciation?

Does my adjuster have the final say on the amount I can recover for my hurricane insurance claim?

No. The home owner is legally entitled to submit their own evidence or proof of loss in support of their insurance claim. The burden is then on your insurance company to demonstrate that your damage is not covered under the policy or that value of your loss is lower than you claim.

What can a hurricane attorney do for me?

Storm damage claims are a specialized area of law that many lawyers are not equipped to handle. In order to have the best chance of recovering the full value of your loss, you will want to hire an experienced hurricane lawyer. A hurricane attorney that regularly handles storm damage claims will know how to prove the value of your claim to your insurance company.

How much does a hurricane attorney cost?

Most storm damage lawyers work under a contingency fee agreement. Under this type of contract, your hurricane lawyer does not get paid unless you get paid for your storm damage claim. Generally, a hurricane damage lawyer will take on the risk of financing your case, and will then receive a percentage of what he recovers from your insurance company to compensate him for his services. This way the homeowner does not have to come out of pocket to pay for the cost of hiring expert adjusters, engineers, hazard remediation contractors, or economists that may be required to recover fair compensation for your storm damage loss.

What is proof of loss?

Your insurance claim adjuster may be telling you to fill out “proof of loss” forms to process your claim. Proof of loss is legal concept. Essentially, it means that the insured or homeowner needs to provide sufficient evidence to let his or her insurance company know the extent of the damage, lost property, and cost of repairs to your home or business. Insurance companies will want you to use their specific forms to document the value of your loss. These forms, unfortunately, are often designed to minimize the amount of your wind or flood damage. These forms can also be difficult to understand, and if you incorrectly fill out your proof of loss form, you may jeopardize your claim.

A hurricane attorney knows, however, that Louisiana courts have ruled that “proof of loss” is a flexible concept. A homeowner may submit various types of evidence in order to provide “proof of loss” to the insurance company.

What is business interruption loss?

Business interruption loss is a type of insurance coverage that allows the business owner to recover for lost profits from having to close the business due to storm damage. Business interruption losses, however, can be difficult to prove. You will need to submit evidence to your insurance company in the form of business income statements or tax returns. Your hurricane damage attorney can help you with the submission of financial statements, calculate your business interruption loss, and help you retain the services of any financial experts or economists that may be needed to prove the full value of your business interruption loss.

How do I get more for my building damage when making a hurricane insurance claim?

It is important for you to be able to demonstrate the full value of your building loss to the insurance company. Unfortunately, many of the adjusters that are sent out by the insurance company to inspect your property will underestimate the cost of repairing your home. Other adjusters do not spend enough time at your property, overlooking areas in your home that were damaged, and will leave portions of your home’s damage out of their report.

An experienced hurricane lawyer will bring in a public adjuster on your side to evaluate your building loss. The adjuster will perform a thorough inspection of your home to account for all aspects of your damage and the full cost of repairs. The adjuster will produce a line item estimate of your property damage, which your attorney will use to negotiate with your insurance company.

How do I get more for my personal property loss when making a hurricane insurance claim?

As if it isn’t hard enough to lose everything you own, but it can be particularly frustrating when the insurance company tries to undervalue the loss of your personal property. In order to receive fair compensation for your personal property/contents loss, a hurricane attorney will help you to sufficiently document your loss. You will need to take photos of all your damaged personal property, determine the value of each item, and document this information with the help of your hurricane attorney.

Should I use my own contractor to submit an estimate in support of my hurricane insurance claim?

No. While you are allowed to submit a contractor’s estimate to your insurance company to demonstrate the cost of repairing your home or business, a contractor’s estimate may actually hurt the value of your claim. A contractor may know how to repair your home, but your contractor is not an expert in estimating hurricane damage losses. He may leave out important home repair and remediation services which you are entitled to recover for under your policy.

Also, the insurance industry relies on insurance adjusters to estimate hurricane damage losses, and your insurance adjuster will use industry standard programs like Xactimate or Simsol to report the value of your loss. You will want to hire a hurricane lawyer who is familiar with these systems, and will use the same programs to submit a comprehensive report of your hurricane damage to your insurance company.

Further, if you ever have to file suit against your insurance company to recover for your damages, you will want a licensed public adjuster to testify that has litigation experience and knows the full extent of your hurricane damage, not your contractor.

Should I handle my hurricane damage claim myself?

It depends. After you report your hurricane damage to your insurance company, an adjuster representing the insurance company will be sent to your home or business to evaluate the extent of your storm damage. He should produce a line item report demonstrating the cost of repairs. If you are satisfied with the amount your insurance company is offering for your hurricane damage, then you can end the claims process there on your own.

If you are dissatisfied with the amount your insurance company is willing to pay for your hurricane damage, you should contact a hurricane lawyer. A hurricane lawyer generally will only charge you a percentage of what they can recover from the insurance company in excess of what you have already been offered. For example, if the insurance company only offers to pay $30,000 for your hurricane loss, but with the help of your hurricane attorney you ultimately recover $50,000, you will only be charged a percentage of the additional $20,000 that was recovered through the hurricane attorney’s professional efforts.

What is an “appraisal” of my hurricane damage?

When your insurance company asks for an “appraisal” of your hurricane damage, the insurance company is invoking the appraisal clause in your insurance policy. This means that an appraiser will be appointed by the insurance company to represent their interests in determining the cost of your storm damage. The insured home or business owner also has the right to appoint their own appraiser to participate in the claims process. The two appraisers will then meet and determine whether they can agree on the cost of repairing the damage caused by the storm. If the two appraisers can agree, then the agreed upon amount will be the value of the loss recovered by the insured. If the two appraisers cannot agree, then an “umpire” will join the process and make a ruling on the disputed portions of the claim.

The appraisal process is often not favored by home and business owners because more often than not, the two appraisers will not be able to agree on the extent of the hurricane loss, and the appointed umpire will favor the interests of the insurance company. Accordingly, the insured home or business owner should always be sure to check whether the insurance company has timely invoked the appraisal clause. Louisiana courts have held that insurance companies must invoke the appraisal clause within a “reasonable time” after the date of loss. Louisiana case law reveals that the insurance company only has sixty (60) days after the insured submits “proof of loss” to invoke the appraisal clause. So, if it has been over two months since you submitted a contractor’s estimate, or a public adjuster’s report to your insurance company showing the cost of your hurricane damage, you may legally reject the insurance company’s request to participate in the appraisal process.

What is recoverable depreciation?

It depends on the policy, but recoverable depreciation is essentially the amount that your insurance company holds back when you receive your check for your storm damage. After you complete your repairs, you can seek the amount of recoverable depreciation that was held back by your insurance company by submitting receipts confirming the cost of your repairs. If the cost of your repairs matched the insurance adjuster’s estimate of repairing the damage, then you should be entitled to receive the entire amount that was held back for recoverable depreciation.

If, however, the cost of repairing your hurricane damage was less than the amount calculated by the insurance company’s adjuster, then you are only entitled to a pro rated amount of the recoverable depreciation. For example, if the insurance adjuster estimated the loss at $100,000.00, with recoverable depreciation in the amount of $10,000, but your hurricane damage only ended up costing $80,00 to repair, then you will only be able to recover 80% of the recoverable depreciation ($80,000 is 80% of $100,000). So with recoverable depreciation of $10,000, you will only be able to recover $8,000.