Climate change, floods, droughts, tornados, fires, freak snow storms. Were seeing more and more extreme weather and its consequences in the news everyday, and if you haven’t experienced it yet, it’s bound to hit soon where you live. If you own a home you probably think your homeowner’s insurance will cover your losses and help you rebuild if you are a victim of extreme weather. Don’t count on it. Insurance companies are in business to make money, not to help you. They have many ways to avoid paying, when your home is damaged.
If you are hit by extreme weather and your home is damaged, be prepared for a fight with your insurance company. If your claim is denied or if you are offered less than you should receive, you can dispute the decision. Expect this to happen, and start taking preparatory action right away:
Take pictures of all of the damage. If you can, get pictures that have a date stamp. Before and after pictures with dates are even better.
Document everything. Write down the dates and times of any and all conversations you have had with the insurance company, the names of everyone you speak with, and the results of those discussions.
Keep receipts for everything including:
oExpenses for repairs which you pay for out of pocket
oLiving expenses, such as hotel bills and eating out while you are waiting for your home to be livable again
oAny other money that you must spend due to the damage to your home
Talk to a contractor and get an estimate for the cost of repairing your home. Do not rely on you insurance company’s estimate.
Demand an explanation in writing if the insurance company denies part, or all, of your claim. Insist that it informs you of the exact wording in your policy upon which it is basing its denial. This lets you know what you are up against, and keeps the insurance company from changing its story later down the road.
How insurance companies try to get out of paying
Your insurance company will try one (or more) of three methods to cheat you out of your money:
Offer you too little
Delay your claim
Deny your claim
Offering too little
One of the easiest ways for insurance companies to cheat you is to offer you less than they should pay. This trick saves them time and money. The idea is that if they offer you something, you’ll take it and feel lucky that you got anything at all.
Delaying our claim
Insurance companies benefit in two ways when they delay your claim. First, they draw interest on the money that is owed to you. If they do eventually pay you, they still make money in the process. Second, they count on the idea that the longer you have to wait the more desperate you will be, and therefore more likely to accept less than you are entitled to when they finally offer you something.
While they benefit from delaying your claim, you suffer. Your home may become even more damaged waiting for repairs. You have to pay for another place to live. Many people miss work and children often miss school. Your life is completely disrupted and put on hold, while they sit back and wait for you to reach the breaking point.
Some insurance companies will just cut to the chase and deny your claim. They often do this by claiming that you the damage was caused by something that was not covered in your policy. For instance, if a storm causes water damage which should be covered by your homeowner’s insurance, the insurance company may try to claim that the water damage was actually caused by subsequent flooding not covered by homeowner’s insurance, and that you should have had flood insurance to cover the damage.
If your insurance company has denied or delayed your homeowner’s insurance claim, or if you feel that you have been offered less than a fair amount for the damage to your home, contact an experienced bad faith insurance attorney today.