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General Insurance

Disaster Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Disclaimer
The answers to coverage questions are primarily based on ISO forms generally used in Florida by most companies. However, we must keep in mind that all companies’ forms are NOT necessarily the same. Some companies may provide broader coverage and some may be more restrictive. IN ALL CASES, THE CONSUMER MUST REFER TO HIS OR HER OWN POLICY FOR SPECIFIC COVERAGE INFORMATION.
 
In catastrophic situations, some companies may be more lenient in their handling of claims and may make concessions, such as advancing additional living expense (i.e. ALE) payments, to expedite the claim process. Other companies may handle such claims in accordance with their normal procedures.
 
If you have additional questions that need to be added to this list or if you find any errors, please send them to the Division of Consumer Services, Bureau of Education, Advocacy and Research, 200 East Gaines Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-4212.
What if my home is damaged and I don’t have insurance?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides assistance to those whose homes are damaged or destroyed. You should also keep all receipts for any repairs you make so you can file the loss with the IRS on your income tax return. You may also be eligible for a low interest loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA). FEMA can be reached at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) (TTY: 1-800-462-7585). SBA can be reached at 1-866-737-7232.

When should I report my claim to my insurance company?

You should report your claim as soon as possible. If we have had multiple hurricanes in a year or if we have a severe hurricane, it may take longer for an adjuster to get to you. It is not uncommon for insurers to prioritize claims by the severity. In other words, if your home is destroyed, you would receive a higher priority than someone with a few roof tiles missing. You might consider this fact when determining how soon to call.

Should I make repairs to my damaged property or wait for the insurance adjuster?

You are required by your insurance contract to make temporary repairs to prevent further damage. The adjuster must see the damage to evaluate your loss. Take pictures of the damage and keep all receipts for materials purchased for emergency repairs. You should not dispose of any damaged property until the adjuster has completed his inspection.

How do I know which policy to file my claim under? I have a homeowners policy, a flood policy, and a windstorm policy.

It depends on what happened to your home. It is not uncommon for people living near water to have a flood claim and a windstorm claim. If you are unsure, call all three carriers and they will determine who is responsible for repairs.

Does my homeowner’s insurance policy cover my personal property while I live somewhere else while my home is being repaired?

Normally, your personal property is covered anywhere in the world as long as it’s not located in another residence owned by you. However, talk with your agent to confirm that your current policy adequately protects your property. If the policy does not provide coverage while you are temporarily living somewhere else while repairs are being made to your home, you may need a tenant’s policy to cover your personal belongings and liability.

How can I verify the Florida license of the adjuster assigned to my case by my insurer?

Adjusters must be licensed by the Department of Financial Services (DFS). Insurance companies can hire temporary emergency adjusters, many of whom come from other states. These adjusters are issued temporary licenses. Ask to see your insurance adjuster’s license or other documentation that proves they represent your insurance company if they have not yet received their temporary adjuster’s license. Company adjusters will not charge you a fee or ask you to sign a contract to adjust your claim.

What should I do if I am contacted by a Public Adjuster?

A public adjuster is licensed by the Department of Financial Services and represents the insured's interests in resolving claims with an insurance company. Unlike the independent or company adjuster, who represents the interest of the insurance company in the resolution of claims, public adjusters become your contractual representative. Public adjusters charge a fee (usually a percentage of the claim) to process the claim on your behalf. Ask to see their license. Please keep in mind a contract signed by you and a Public Adjuster is legally binding. If you change your mind later, you may not be able to get out of the contract. During a state of emergency declared by the Governor, you can cancel the contract within 5 business days after the execution date with a public adjuster. Otherwise, you have a right to cancel within 3 business days.

How long should it take for my insurer to send an adjuster to my home?

It depends on the severity and the extent of the damage caused by the disaster. Adjusters come into the disaster areas as soon as they are permitted to do so by emergency officials. If you have reported your loss to the insurer, they may be able to give you an estimate of the timeline in which the adjuster should contact you.

How can I verify the license and reputation of a contractor?

Call the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at (850) 487-1395, and check the license of the contractor. Also ask for references from the individual and be sure to check them. Most of the time an insurance company does not recommend a contractor, so be wary of those that claim the insurance company sent them. Ask to see something in writing.

During a hurricane, a tree from my yard fell onto my neighbor’s home, causing damage to his roof. Should my liability coverage on my homeowner’s policy cover my neighbor’s damage?

No, his homeowners’ policy would cover the damage to his house unless you are legally liable for his damage. Normally, to be legally liable, you must be negligent.

My boat sank during a hurricane and I have liability coverage only. Will my boat be replaced by my boat insurance company?

No. You must carry physical damage coverage on your boat for the claim to be paid.

My boat is moored at a marina. If it causes damage to other boats or the marina, am I covered?

There wouldn’t be coverage for the other boats or the marina unless you were negligent. For any liability policy to respond, you would have to be legally liable for the damage.

How does the insurer determine how high the water came into my vehicle?

Generally, there will be a water mark/line on the interior parts, such as the floor mats, seats and console/dash, which will indicate the level of water intrusion. Once the vehicle has either dried out or has been cleaned it may be difficult to determine the presence of or the extent of water intrusion.

If my vehicle is flooded, shouldn’t my insurer total it?

It always depends on the degree of the flood. If the damage is from salt water, and it rises to the point of reaching the inside floor boards, your insurer will more than likely total the vehicle. If the damage is from fresh water, the extent of the water intrusion will determine whether or not your insurer totals or repairs the vehicle.

Where do I report price gouging on items such as gasoline, generators, ice or building materials?

Call the Attorney General’s Office at 1-866-966-7226 or Click Here, to fill out a form on-line.