What to know about filing an insurance claim post-hurricane

Published: Updated:

By Melanie Pagan

There are two significant issues The McIntyre Law Firm Managing Partner Garrett McIntyre sees for homeowners handling insurance claims after a hurricane.

“Either a partial payment or the insurance carrier is trying to string payments along,” he says.

Industry experts offered tips to understand the insurance claim process better so you can avoid sticky situations like this when your home needs help.


Review your coverage

Don’t wait until after a hurricane hits to see how you’re protected. “With home insurance, it’s very good to reevaluate it every year when it comes up for renewal,” says Cathy Sink, owner of Cathy Sink Agency in Fort Myers.

Make sure you have hurricane and wind protection on your policy and review your deductibles, which are very different and separate from standard protection for fire, theft, vandalism and other concerns.

“Please read your policy or sit down with your agent and have them go over it with you,” McIntyre says. The more knowledge your insurance agent has on natural disasters specific to the region, the better they’ll help you understand what you need. “Each state has its own issues, but in Florida, we have a lot, so it’s important to find an agent that has the experience,” Sink says.

Document everything

Get a copy of your insurance policy before a hurricane, so it’s not the one piece of paperwork holding you back should you have a claim to file. If it’s accessible online, make sure you know your account information.

Then, take photos of everything in your house beforehand, and send them to yourself or back them up elsewhere in case you lose your digital device during the storm.

“One of the biggest reasons an insurance company will deny claims is because they will say it’s pre-existing damage,” McIntyre says.

Protect your property

Don’t leave your belongings up to fate. “It’s your responsibility to protect your home, and your policy says that,” Sink says. Put up storm shutters, sandbags and more. “Insurance companies want you to do your part. Prepare your home the best you can, and then evacuate if you need to.”


Act fast

Report damage to your home as soon as possible, regardless of severity. “Get your claim in right away, even if it seems minor. Those minor things can come back and cause damage later,” Sink says. “If it was not reported before, it can cause confusion and go against you when you file a new claim.”

Don’t rule out other avenues to receive help while waiting, such as FEMA, or you could miss out on significantly more money. “When in doubt, file a claim with everyone. The worst thing that can happen is they deny it,” McIntyre says.

Document … again

“Make sure you have plenty of documentation of what you’re dealing with,” Sink says. Take pictures and videos of the aftermath — while exercising caution, especially in slippery conditions. (Read: Don’t try treading on your wet tile roof to get a better angle.)

Mitigate destruction but avoid doing hefty self-repairs, which can increase damage or cause injury. Instead, call a licensed and insured contractor. Before that, check if your policy says a preferred contractor must do the work.

Save and share receipts

“There’s nothing really to hide with insurance companies,” McIntyre says. Give them all the related information, documentation and written quotes from contractors you’ve called.

Many insurance policies in Florida have coverage for out-of-pocket expenses, but you need proof of what you spent. “If you’re not submitting your receipts, you’re not going to get reimbursed,” he says.

Know the process

Most homeowner policies are paid at replacement costs, but replacement cost only begins when you decide to replace what you lost. The insurance company’s first step is to give you money for what you had, which might be significantly less than expected, depending on the conditions. For example, if you lose a roof that is 10 years old, the insurance company will cite depreciation, so you won’t immediately get the cost of a new roof. The rest will come after you sign a contract with a roofer and begin the roof replacement process.

“Many people get terrified or angry when they get a check in the mail after their insurance company has come out and done an assessment, and it’s much less than what they expected,” Sink says. “That’s because the replacement cost work hasn’t been done yet. The insurance companies are only obligated to pay you for what you’ve lost but not replaced yet.”

Hire help if needed

There are two key stages to hiring an attorney with help for insurance claims, McIntyre said: If you get any kind of denial or underpayment for a claim and don’t understand why, or if you need help managing the claim-filing process.

Practice patience

In times of natural disaster, many people need assistance, so severe cases are handled first. “The insurance companies are going to work on the hardest hit first,” Sink says. “There are only so many adjusters, and insurance companies can’t have enough to cover something like Hurricane Ian. There’s just not enough manpower. They will call on insurance adjusters and contractors all over the country, but it takes time to organize this.”


Cathy Sink, Cathy Sink Agency (Allstate) CathySink@allstate.com, 239-770-8600.

Garrett W. McIntyre, Managing Partner, The McIntyre Law Firm, 239.935.8574, garrett@mcintyrelawfirm.com

Heather McIntyre, Director of Operations, heather@mcintyrelawfirm.com

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