|Date:||September 20, 2017|
|Source:||Walter J. Andrews|
|Author:||Property Casualty 360|
Now, after Hurricane Irma, the cleanup — and the insurance claims process — begins.
The first 30 to 60 days post-storm are critical in ensuring coverage for your property damage and business interruption losses after the storm.
Below, we first provide a checklist to guide both commercial and individual insureds in the first few weeks after the storm. Then, we address the key commercial coverages that business insureds may have to help them recover from lost business income post-storm.
Hurricane Irma claims checklist
As soon as it is possible to do so, both individual and business insureds should take the following steps to maximize coverage for their Hurricane Irma claims.
• Evaluate and document the damage. Take photographs of the exterior and interior of property, including personal property. This is important to support your claim and to avoid any dispute with your insurer over what was damaged by the storm and the condition of the property post-storm and before mitigation efforts.
• Locate policies. Gather all potentially applicable insurance policies (wind-only, flood, property). Call your insurance agent or insurer if you are having trouble finding your policy. As we discussed in our article last week, while Florida law requires residential property insurers to offer coverage for windstorms resulting from hurricanes, commercial nonresidential property insurers are not required to provide coverage for windstorm damage. Thus, Hurricane Irma damage may implicate multiple separate policy forms. Locate and review your property policy, wind-only policy (if applicable) and flood policy.
• Provide prompt written notice to each insurer. It is extremely important to provide written notice to your insurance agent and insurance company as soon as possible post-storm. Policies typically require "prompt notice" or "notice as soon as practicable" and Florida courts have routinely upheld these provisions, oftentimes affirming coverage denials where insureds fail to provide prompt notice after discovering damage. At a minimum, provide written notice of damage to all potentially applicable insurers (windstorm, flood, property) even if you are unsure whether or not your losses will exceed your deductible. It's better to ensure a timely submission now rather than risk a coverage denial based on late notice when you later determine the damage you thought was within your deductible was actually far more significant and costly. Your written notice should include: name and contact information for the insured, the location of the loss/damage, the date and time that the damage occurred and a brief description of the loss.
• Take steps to mitigate the damage. Your policy likely covers expenses incurred in taking preventative measures to avoid further loss post-Irma, such as boarding up broken windows. Indeed, the applicable policies will require that you take action to mitigate existing damage and prevent any further damage to the property. Nonetheless, it is important to run any mitigation plans by your insurer after filing your claim to make sure that your efforts will not interfere with their investigation of the damage. Requesting insurer consent to estimated costs of mitigation efforts now will also expedite your reimbursement of these costs during the claims process.
• Debris removal costs are likely covered.Your policy likely covers costs incurred in removing debris from your policy. This coverage is usually stated as a percentage of your total limits. Importantly, this coverage may have a different reporting deadline than other policy coverages, such as 90 or 180 days after the loss.
• Be cognizant of proof of loss deadlines.Check the proof of loss deadlines in each potentially applicable policy. If the deadline is short (120 days or less), considering asking your insurer now, in writing, for an extension of that deadline, and preserve evidence of that request. Note, however, that your deadline will not be extended unless you receive written confirmation of the extension from your insurer.