- Last year was a rough hurricane season, from Harvey stalling on Houston, Irma traveling up Florida and Maria devasting Puerto Rico. What are the lessons we learned from the 2017 hurricane season?
We learned a great deal of positive “lessons” from Hurricane Irma. First, no carrier was placed into liquidation or went into bankruptcy based on the storms. A few of the smaller carriers were purchased by larger insurance companies, but none of the Florida players had major financial issues from Hurricane Irma. Second, we learned that the Florida-based property carriers were ready and able to handle the massive claim influx and widespread destruction caused by Irma. Although there was an initial delay since hundreds of field adjusters were already working claims in Texas from Hurricane Harvey, the vast majority of customers were seen quickly and had their compensation checks soon after the storm. Florida Peninsula Insurance and Edison Insurance finalized 99.3 percent of our initial claims within 90 days, beating our own goal.
- What else did Floridians learn with Hurricane Irma?
After Hurricane Irma, we found out that well-built, newer homes survived better than older homes, and had much less damage throughout the state. Unfortunately, we continue to find residents that failed to purchase flood insurance that are left not fully compensated after a combined wind and wave event, like Hurricane Irma, rolls through Florida.
- So homeowner’s insurance doesn’t include flood coverage?
Most home insurance policies do not cover flood claims. Let’s define a flood. A flood is rising water coming from outside the home. Storm surge is rising water. Many people do not realize that although there is a hurricane outside, the damage to their home is being caused by rising water and therefore their homeowners’ policy will not cover this damage. Over one third of flood claims happen in non-flood zone areas.
When you consider the damage flood water can make to your home and the cost of its repairs with the annual cost of a flood policy, which averages approximately $400, it is well worth considering obtaining this coverage. You may purchase flood coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or a private flood carrier. Endorsing your policy with this coverage will allow you to easily maintain all your coverage with one carrier. This will simplify payment, maintenance, renewals of the policy as well as expediting any claim you may have since it will be one company handling the adjustment of the damages.
- Why should people review their insurance policies?
Everyone wants to save money; this is understandable. After the last hurricane season there’s no reason for apathy and no reason to have an insurance carrier who may offer cheap policies at the cost of providing coverage. This all creates the potential for disaster should a catastrophe happen. Why do people buy insurance? We buy insurance in the hope we never have to use it. As years pass and you do not have the need to file a claim, it is easy to consider limiting your coverage because “this hasn’t happened to me.” The truth is, many claims happen when you least expect it and can cause thousands. If you are not properly insured for the costliest of situations, how will you make all the repairs needed? The cost of peace of mind cannot be measured, yet it is one of the most important items to consider when purchasing home insurance.
- What should you do before and after the storm?
Stop what you are doing and take a photo inventory of your home and valuables. Should your property be damaged or stolen, insurance carriers will need proof you owned the items you are claiming. Taking a photo or video inventory of your home will alleviate the claims process when you may not be in the mindset to recover all the documentation needed.
After the storm, it is important you and your family are in a safe place. Once it is safe to come out of your home and the authorities have advised the storm has passed, we recommend you assess any damage you may have experienced. Take pictures of the damage. Take immediate mitigation steps to avoid further damage, when it is safe to do so. Then call your carrier. Making the phone call to your carrier a priority. The sooner you call, the sooner they can process your claim. Remember thousands of other homeowners will be doing the same. This will get you on the road to recovery and bringing your life back to normalcy.