September 26th, 2017
By Justin M. Thomas, Esq.
Earlier this month, majority of Floridians experienced the passing of Hurricane Irma. Unfortunately, the risks associated with living in the state of Florida include tropical weather such as hurricanes and tropical storms. In Southwest Florida, those risks and the ensuing damaging resulting from those risks are now readily apparent. As the area and the state begin to recover, it is important not to forget about the steps commonly taken to insure against the losses associated with unexpected and catastrophic events, like Hurricane Irma. Namely, insurance for real property, personal property and loss of business or business interruption.
A large majority of Floridians have purchased an insurance product to protect their most valuable investment, their home. In addition to insuring the structure from loss, the property contained inside is also likely insured up to a certain limit. If structural or property damage was sustained, the following steps should be taken:
- Locate your insurance policy and read the coverages afforded under it.
- In the event of recognized damage, immediately place your insurer on notice of the loss.
- Document all damages to your home and property, as this will be requested from your insurer. Photographs and an inventory of damages are a simple way to keep track of the loss and quickly provide to your insurer when requested.
- Follow up with your insurer to make sure that your claim is opened and being processed so as to quickly begin the steps forward to recovering from this unfortunate event.
- If your property is in danger of sustaining further loss, seek the permission of your insurer to employ efforts to mitigate further loss.
- In the event that your insurer fails to respond to your attempts to initiate a claim or respond to your inquiries, contact the state of Florida Department of Insurance Consumer Helpline at (1-877-693-5236) and consider seeking the advice of competent legal counsel experienced with handling similar claims.
Commercial Property and Business Interruption Coverage
The losses associated with serious weather events, such as Irma, do not just damage homes and impact the personal lives of Floridians. Mother Nature’s powerful force has unyieldingly damaged the property of Florida’s economic base of small businesses as well. Commercial property insurance is the product device to protect a business’s real and personal property. An additional coverage available for businesses is that of business interruption insurance. This insurance provides coverage to a business for the losses sustained due to the inability or reduced ability of a business operate in the event of disaster or loss.
While no business owner can forecast the future, those that have purchased commercial property insurance and business interruption insurance are not without support to recover from Irma’s recently inflicted loss. The steps outlined above with respect to homeowners insurance will apply equally to a commercial property claim. In addition, consider the following:
- Identify all available coverages for both property and if applicable, inventory maintained by the business.
- Confirm the notice requirements in the policy in the event of a loss and immediately report the loss or potential loss to your carrier.
- Maintain accurate records of the events leading up to the disaster, during the disaster and following the event so as to be able to provide the insurer with the necessary information to evaluate and adjust the loss.
In closing, although the recent events associated with Irma have inevitably disturbed the lives and damaged the property of many Floridians, recovering for those losses from your insurer is one positive step towards returning to some sense of normalcy.