Frequently Asked Claims Questions
Information from Hurricane Lawyers, New Orleans, Louisiana
Does my adjuster have the final say on the amount I can recover for my
hurricane insurance claim?
What can a hurricane attorney do for me?
How much does a hurricane attorney cost?
What is proof of loss?
What is business interruption loss?
How do I get more for my building damage when making a hurricane insurance claim?
How do I get more for my personal property loss when making a hurricane
Should I use my own contractor to submit an estimate in support of my hurricane
Should I handle my hurricane damage claim myself?
What is an “appraisal” of my hurricane damage?
What is recoverable depreciation?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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