Articles Posted in Hurricane and Storm Damage Insurance

Hurricane season doesn’t officially begin until June 1, but President Donald Trump has proclaimed this week ‘National Hurricane Preparedness Week.’

The time to prepare is now, before any storms make it to Florida. The last thing you want is to be caught off guard- this could be a deadly mistake.

Many people facing tropical storms and hurricanes last year in Florida, wish they had been more prepared, and for good reason. This is why President Trump hopes people get prepared right now during Hurricane Preparedness Week.

Your to do list should include:

  • Coming up with an evacuation plan
  • Getting your disaster supplies together
  • Calling your insurance company for a checkup to make sure you have the right coverage
  • Checking your home to make sure it’s in good condition and can withstand a storm
  • Checking in with your neighbors on their storm plans
  • Writing down your hurricane plan so your whole family is in the know

Our Florida Hurricane & Storm Damage Lawyers at Whittel & Melton would like to recap the 2016 hurricane season. We started with a rare January hurricane, Alex, and ended with Hurricane Otto which made landfall in Nicaragua on November 24. This year was an above-average season. There were 15 named storms and 7 hurricanes. There were 3 major hurricanes: Gaston, Matthew and Nicole. Category 5 Matthew was the strongest one.

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Today is the last day of hurricane season, so we thought we would recap this year’s stats.

The 2016 season started with a rare January hurricane, Alex, and ended with Hurricane Otto which made landfall in Nicaragua on November 24.

This year was an above-average season. There were 15 named storms and 7 hurricanes. There were 3 major hurricanes: Gaston, Matthew and Nicole. Category 5 Matthew was the strongest one.

Tampa Bay was impacted by Tropical Storm Colin in the first week of June. While it stayed out in the Gulf of Mexico, the area saw rough surf, some coastal flooding and strong winds. Clearwater Beach reported a wind gust to 49 mph.

Hurricane Hermine made landfall just east of St. Marks, Florida in the early morning hours of September 2nd with winds of 80 mph. Hurricane Hermine was the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

It brought a storm surge of 3 to 5 feet to parts of the coast from Manatee County to Citrus County. The storm surge was 7.5 feet at Cedar Key. There was heavy rainfall (6 inches to more than 20 inches of rain in some spots) and strong wind gusts in Tampa Bay. Indian Shores had a wind gust of 78 mph. St. Petersburg reported a wind gust of 63 mph and Tampa had a wind gust of 46 mph.

Tropical Storm Julia formed near Jacksonville on September 13, and was an unusual storm since it formed over land, not over water.  

Then there was Hurricane Matthew. As it moved toward the east coast of Florida, close to 2 million people in were ordered to evacuate. Although the center of Matthew stayed just offshore, there was a wind gust of 107 mph on the tip of Cape Canaveral on the morning of October 7. Fernandina Beach in Nassau County reported a peak water level of 6.91 feet. This ranks as the third highest water level recorded there, above Hurricanes Dora and Jeanne. There was also more than 8 inches of rain in some areas.

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Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency for all of Florida as Hurricane Matthew threatened to wreak havoc on the East Coast later in the week.

Hurricane Matthew was southeast of Jamaica on Monday but was predicted to head north and likely produce “devastating impacts from storm surge, extreme winds, heavy rains, flash floods, and/or mudslides in portions of the watch and warning areas in Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas,” the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.

While the path remains unclear as the storm goes further north, the Hurricane Center said direct hurricane impacts are possible in Florida later in the week.

Our Florida Hurricane & Storm Damage Lawyers at Whittel & Melton want you to be prepared for Hurricane Matthew. We urge you to read through the following and make sure you and your family are properly outfitted with supplies in case of an emergency.

Have a 3-7 day supply of each item for every person in your home:

Water

  • 1 gallon of water per person per day stored in clean plastic containers

Food

Purchase foods that require no refrigeration and little preparation, such as:

  • Ready-to-eat canned food
  • Canned juices, milk, soup
  • Snacks like cookies, cereals, etc.
  • Soft drinks, instant coffee, tea
  • Lots of ice – so you can freeze your water supply!

For Baby

  • Formula, bottles, powdered milk, jarred baby foods
  • Diapers, moist towelettes and special medications

Pets

  • Newspapers or cat litter
  • Canned or Dry Food
  • Plastic sheets to cover floor of pet’s room

Medicine

  • First aid kit
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Aspirin, non-aspirin pain reliever, antacid
  • Extra prescription medication  – ask your physician how to store prescription medication
  • Personal Items
  • Toilet paper, towels, soap, shampoo
  • Personal and feminine hygiene products
  • Denture needs, contact lenses and an extra pair of eyeglasses

Other Supplies

  • Battery-operated radio, flashlights, non-electric can opener, extra batteries
  • ABC-rated fire extinguisher in a small canister
  • Portable cooler
  • Plenty of absorbent towels, plastic trash bags
  • Wind-up or battery-operated clock
  • Tarp or sheet plastic, duct tape, hammer and nails for temporary roof repairs
  • Cleaning supplies such as chlorine bleach
  • Aluminum foil, paper napkins and plates, plastic cups
  • Can of spray paint – this can be used to identify your home by insurance adjusters in case it’s damaged
  • At least one change of clothing per person, sturdy shoes, hat and work gloves
  • Pillows and blankets or sleeping bags

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The final report on Hurricane Hermine is in. Heavy rainfall caused more flooding and strong winds brought down trees and powerlines.

Here are the final numbers:

Storm Surge

Cedar Key 7.5 feet

Clearwater Beach 4.41 feet

McKay Bay (Tampa Bay) 4.09 feet

St. Petersburg 3.58 feet

Port Manatee 3.21 feet

Peak Wind Gusts

Indian Shores 78 mph

Treasure Island 71 mph

St. Petersburg 63 mph

Clearwater Beach 62 mph

Cedar Key 60 mph

MacDill 55 mph

Cedar Key 54 mph

Sarasota/Bradenton 54 mph

Crystal River 53 mph

Brooksville 53 mph

Anna Maria 52 mph

Tampa 46 mph

St. Pete/Clearwater 47 mph

Lakeland 42 mph

Winter Haven 41 mph

Plant City 40 mph

Inverness 35 mph

Rainfall

Baskin (Pinellas) 22.36

Largo (Pinellas) 16.11

Gulfport (Pinellas) 14.30

Dunedin (Pinellas) 12.93

Lake Worrell (Pasco) 11.04

Seminole (Pinellas) 10.87

Belleaire (Pinellas) 10.58

Holiday (Pasco) 10.22

Clearwater (Pinellas) 10.03

Palmetto (Manatee) 9.82

Longboat Key (Manatee) 9.61

Ellenton (Manatee) 9.46

Sarasota/Bradenton (Manatee) 9.38

Port Richey (Pasco) 9.24

Tampa (Hillsborough) 6.83

Valrico (Hillsborough) 6.77

Sun City Center (Hillsborough) 6.55

Wesley Chapel (Pasco) 6.55

If your home was damaged by Hermine:

  • Get in touch with your insurance provider ASAP
  • Take any possible steps you can to protect your home from further storm damage
  • Document all damage with photos or video
  • Compose an inventory list of all damages
  • Take down notes on any information your insurance company gives you
  • Save all receipts for expenses related to the damage and/or repairs
  • Make copies of all documents sent to you by your insurance company

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Florida residents know the risks of property damage from hurricanes and tropical storms. Hurricanes and storms can leave behind devastating damages, and the reality is that filing insurance claims to cover repairs and destruction can be a long battle. Fortunately, our Alachua County Hurricane & Storm Damage Claims Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are experienced at handling these types of claims and know how to deal with denied or underpaid claims.

Insurance companies make money by denying, delaying or underpaying claims. Going head to head with your insurance company can be stressful and unnecessary, which is where we come in. With us on your side, we can level the playing field and work to secure the coverage due under the terms of your policy. We believe that you should be properly compensated for your losses.

Even though your insurance company was happy to talk to you when you purchased your insurance policy, that might not be the case when it comes to paying on that policy in the wake of a severe storm or hurricane. The insurance companies are out to secure their bottom line, and they have no genuine interest in treating you fairly. If you have tried reasoning with your insurance company to no avail, please let us help you. They could change their tune once they know you have legal representation.  

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In most cases, it won’t make a difference whether your home or business was damaged in a tropical storm or a hurricane. The damage can be the same regardless of if it was caused by a hurricane or tropical storm.

Even though a hurricane can produce heavier rains and more intense wind and flooding, a property can still be damaged in a tropical storm, including wind, rain, mud, mold and debris. In fact, many insurance policies categorize windstorm coverage and flooding under the same cause of damage. However, every insurance policy is different, so it is imperative to review your policy and make sure you have appropriate coverage.

A hurricane and a tropical storm are both types of  tropical cyclones that spur thunderstorms and high winds. The only difference is in the intensity. A hurricane is the most powerful type of tropical cyclone with sustained winds of 74 mph or higher. What is important to highlight is that some damages caused by hurricanes is not always covered by a traditional homeowners’ insurance policy. Living in Florida, it is essential to understand how important insurance is when a hurricane or tropical storm barges through. While you should be covered by your insurance in the event of a tropical storm or a hurricane, sometimes insurance companies withhold payments or severely underpay for what is owed.

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When you purchase property insurance, you expect your insurance company to pay fairly on any claims dealing with storms and hurricanes, right? Sadly, this is not always the case.

At Whittel & Melton, our New Port Richey Hurricane & Storm Damage Claims Attorneys work to protect you after a devastating storm. We can help you hold your insurance company to its obligations to pay damages according to the terms of your insurance policy after violent winds and rain wreak havoc on your home or business.

You may have already had your claim denied and don’t know why. You may have tried to contact your insurance company and your adjuster won’t talk to you. The truth is, this is not uncommon. While your insurer may not talk to you now, with us fighting in your corner, you may find that they are now willing to discuss your claim.

If your insurance company has denied your claim or is significantly undervaluing your claim, we can help. Specifically, we can help with the following:

  • Bad faith insurance claims. When insurance companies refuse to pay on claims or will not pay the full amount regardless of policy provisions that obligate them to do so, the insurer is acting in bad faith. We will not hesitate to take insurance companies to court so that they live up to their contractual commitments.
  • Homeowner & business insurance claims. People buy property insurance for a reason. When floods, winds, fires, and other disasters damage a property that is covered under a valid insurance policy, you have the right to be compensated.
  • Hurricane & storm damage claims. Florida is prone to hurricanes, so we happily assist those who have experienced property damage from a hurricane or tropical storm recover what they are owed according to their insurance policies.

When insurers illegally take advantage of their policyholders by denying or undervaluing claims, we step in and make sure your rights are protected.

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Residents of Cedar Key, Bronson, Chiefland, Williston, Inglis and Yankeetown may receive services from their insurance company that could qualify for an insurance bad faith claim. Policyholders should keep in mind that Florida law provides that victims of bad faith conduct could be entitled to punitive damages in addition to any other compensation due to them through their policy.

Below are a few examples of bad faith practices used by the insurance company after you file a hurricane or storm damage claim:

Failure to investigate a claim.

Insurance companies that do not conduct a proper investigation or preemptively decide they will deny a claim, are acting in bad faith. Insurance companies have a duty to fully investigate a claim as outlined in their policy. Why would an insurance company avoid investigating a claim? There are many reasons, actually, including:

  • They don’t think policyholders are aware of Florida laws surrounding the claims process.
  • They think the investigation will end with them paying more than they would like to the policyholder.
  • They are trying to cut costs by avoiding the investigation altogether.

Refusing to reimburse you for all of your losses.

Insurance companies must provide what they promise as outlined in their policies. Many policyholders are unaware of what they are rightfully owed and will accept lowball payouts because they do not realize they can re-file a claim or appeal an offered settlement.

Illegal denial of a claim that should have been paid.

Some insurance companies hope their policyholders do not know their rights. They rely on the fact that most will not file an appeal or complaint.

Extended delay in making payments to the policyholder.

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There has been an evacuation order for the coastal communities of Dixie County, including Horseshoe Beach, Suwanee and Jena due to Tropical Storm Hermine. All county schools and offices are closed until Tuesday morning.

Residents in Florida and throughout Dixie County are encouraged by Emergency Services to remove any loose lawn items, such as lawn furniture, grills, lumber, campers and anything that could be moved by the storm surge. However, despite proper precautions, Dixie County property owners could experience severe damage to their homes or businesses, including:

  • Hail damage
  • Roof and siding damage
  • Flooded homes
  • Flooded and washed out streets
  • Wind damage
  • Other storm-related damage, such as sinkholes

If the storm stays on its current path, Dixie County is anticipated to receive possible 58 mph winds by Thursday night. A storm surge of 6-8 feet is predicted during the storm.

For those who have evacuated the area, many will came back to find their homes submerged and damaged. If you suffer property damage in the storm, you should talk with a Dixie County Hurricane & Storm Damage Claims Attorney at Whittel & Melton before accepting any type of  insurance settlement.

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Hurricanes and storm damage in Florida can be quite destructive. Most home and business owners throughout the state are aware that these forces of nature could bring catastrophic damage, which is why they take the precaution of purchasing property insurance to cover any potential damage.

Even though it may be seem obvious to policyholders that their building or property was damaged from a hurricane or tropical storm, insurance adjusters may try to argue that fact. That is why it is important to understand the steps you can take to help make sure your claim get approved smoothly:

  • Document your damages. Take before photos and then after photos of anything damaged to show to the adjuster. Include close-up photos that detail the damage. This can be very important when it comes to dents in roofs and siding.
  • Keep your receipts for your home furnishings, business supplies, equipment and inventory. Try and locate your receipts that may have gotten wet or damaged during the storm and dry them out. Keep in mind that it is a good idea to keep an electronic inventory log for these very purposes. Be aware that insurance adjusters are professionals at undervaluing the cost of your damaged goods – it is their job to lowball.
  • Never assume that your home or property survived a storm without damage just based on looks. Some messes just clean up well. Hire a professional, certified inspector. High winds, hail damage, etc. can sometimes take a year or more to show up in the form of a slow water leak, electrical problems and even structural loss.
  • File your claim as soon as possible after hurricane or storm damage. If you delay, that just gives the insurance company more fuel to justify denying, delaying or undervaluing claims.

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