What Your Florida Insurance Company Doesn’t Want You to Know About Hurricane Claims

After Hurricane Ian cost Florida homeowners hundreds of thousands of dollars in claims, people have started taking a more active interest in their coverage, as well as the hurricane claims process. The Washington Post did an investigation in March 2023 that revealed that some Florida home insurance policyholders saw Hurricane Ian claims slashed by as much as 80% or more from the field adjuster’s initial estimate. 

Thousands of families and homeowners are at a loss, literally and figuratively, as insurance companies are nickel-and-diming every last inch of damage and coming up with as many exclusions and reasons not to offer coverage as they can justify. And this is just the latest in a series of insurance crises that have been plaguing Florida homeowners for years. 

The best thing that you can do to protect your home and your family is to educate yourself on Florida home insurance, including:

  • What your coverage includes 
  • Florida home insurance requirements 
  • Hurricane and named storm coverage
  • Specific exclusions and limitations
  • How to negotiate and maximize your Florida home insurance claims

To begin, let’s discuss how hurricane claims factor into your standard home insurance coverage. 

Are Hurricane Claims Separate from Home Insurance?

Insurance policies in coastal states typically have two separate deductibles that you don’t see on most policies: hurricane (named storm) and windstorm. So, hurricane claims are technically a part of your overall home insurance policy. However, they have their own deductibles and coverage considerations. 

If you aren’t sure what kind of coverage you currently have, check the front page of your insurance policy (the declarations page). There, you will see a list of your coverages and deductibles, including hurricane and windstorm deductibles. If you don’t see them or if the amounts seem too high, you might want to investigate and make the necessary adjustments, but more on that later. 

What is a “Named Storm” Deductible?

When home insurance companies don’t include coverage on your standard home insurance, they will require you to purchase separate coverage known as a named storm deductible. Florida homeowners, like all homeowners along the coast, will see this listed on the declarations page of their home insurance. 

Unlike other insurance deductibles, this one is usually based on a percentage of your home’s value. It can vary but usually ranges between one and five percent. So, if you have a $350,000 house and your deductible is four percent, you’ll have to pay $14,000 before the insurance covers the rest of the damages. 

The percentage you pay will be based largely in part on the risk level of where you live. For example, homeowners on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts will pay more than inland homeowners with a lower risk of hurricane damage. 

Windstorm Insurance 

Windstorm insurance will be used to provide coverage for damage caused by winds and storms that are not related to a hurricane or named storm. For example, if a severe thunderstorm causes sheer winds that rip the metal roof off your pole barn, that would be covered. This may also provide coverage for wind-driven rain and related damages, but you’ll have to double-check your policy for exact details. 

Exclusions, Limitations, and Reductions in Claim Payments 

Insurers are chomping at the bit to find ways to reduce claims– the less they pay, the more they profit. They often assume that their customers won’t bother to negotiate, or may not even know that they can negotiate for better claim settlements if they don’t like what they’re offered. They also have a long list of limitations and exclusions for every type of insurance imaginable, including Florida home insurance policies. 

This is the biggest area that impacts policyholders when it comes to filing claims for hurricanes, or any other incident or damage, for that matter. In addition to requiring specific hurricane and windstorm deductibles, insurance companies usually exclude coverage for flooding and require a separate flood insurance policy. 

If you’ve lived in Florida for any length of time, you know how often hurricanes lead to flooding and water damage. That’s why it’s essential to have a separate policy for flood insurance. The same goes for sewer backup, which can also be found with flooding and storm damage but is often excluded from coverage. 

If you’re not sure about all of the exclusions and limitations in your home insurance policy, consider contacting a public insurance adjuster. They can review your policy, go over the details, and even advise on how to get better coverage to protect your home and family. 

If You Haven’t Updated Your Policy, You Might Not Have Enough Coverage

This is one of the biggest reasons that people fail to get what they are owed out of their insurance claims. They bought a policy years ago, chose coverage amounts and deductibles based on those needs, and left things as they were. Over the years, however, people will acquire more belongings. They will make home improvements. Inflation will change the cost of living, as well as the cost of repairs and reconstruction. 

Therefore, it is important to have a regular review of your home insurance policy every two or three years. A good once-over annually will ensure that everything is in order, but every few years, or whenever there’s been a major change to your home, possessions, or living situation, you should get a detailed policy review to make sure that you are covered. 

Let’s look at a fictional example:

Stan bought a home in Miami in 2015 for $200,000. He furnished it and purchased a home insurance policy that included $10,000 in personal property coverage and $350,000 in replacement coverage. However, he then made some updates to the home, bought some new household items, and let the insurance keep updating itself without so much as a second glance. 

In 2021, Stan’s home was damaged by Hurricane Ian, to the tune of $400,000 or more in replacement costs and $15,000 in personal property loss or damage. And since his hurricane deductible is at five percent because of his high-risk location, he has to pay $20,000 out of pocket before the insurance even kicks in. That means that Stan is now responsible for $75,000, in total, even after his home insurance claim is paid. 

$415,000 (Total Damage) – $360,000 (Total Coverage) = $55,000 – Stan’s out-of-pocket costs

$55,000 excess + $20,000 hurricane deductible = $75,000 total out-of-pocket

Had he reviewed and updated his policy, he may have been able to offset or avoid this in several ways. Or, he could have sat down with a public insurance adjuster to review his policy and make sure that he didn’t need to make changes. 

Home insurance, of all things, is not a “set it and forget it” purchase. Insurance companies might not be so willing to tell you that and that could cost you dearly. 

What Happens During the Claims Process 

Adjusting and underwriting are done very much behind the scenes, with the exception of the initial field adjuster that comes out to the property to survey the damage and compile the initial report. Some homeowners errantly assume that this estimate is their final one and that’s how much they can expect to be compensated. 

The reality is that this is a preliminary estimate, based on the adjuster’s assessment of the physical property and the damage in question. They will then have to submit their report to underwriting, where they will continue to review the claim. This is where policyholders often see their claims reduced by thousands, and sometimes cut in half or more. 

One adjuster interviewed by the Washington Post reported submitting a damage claim for about $200,000, which he later checked and saw had been reduced to just $27,000, without his consent or knowledge, even though his name was still included on the final report. 

According to the interviewee and others, regional insurance carriers that run the market have been lowering damage totals, deleting photos and damage report sections, and rewriting damage reports without the approval or even the notification of the original adjuster involved. 

And at the time of the publication of the Post’s article (March 2023), as many as 34% of all Hurricane Ian claims have yet to be paid, despite the 90-day period ending in late December. 

What Florida insurance companies don’t want you to know about the hurricane insurance claims process (or any home insurance claim) is that their entire goal is to get your claim settled for the lowest dollar amount you will accept. If you’re not aware of your coverage, your rights, and other elements, you may unknowingly take less than you deserve. 

Contact a Public Insurance Adjuster for a Review of Your Hurricane Claim 

If your Florida home insurance includes separate hurricane coverage, you need to know what that entails, as well as what’s included and excluded. That way, you can feel confident in knowing that you get the settlement that you deserve. For those who need extra support, a public insurance adjuster can be a great resource. 

On Target Claims has a dedicated, experienced team of public insurance adjusters who are intimately familiar with Florida hurricane claims, including how the process works, what is and isn’t covered for most policyholders, and how you can get the compensation that you are owed, no matter what. We can help you better understand the claims process and fight for a fair outcome so that you’re not at the mercy of the insurance company. Contact us today at 954-266-0541 to discuss your claim or learn more. 

Related Content: How to File an Insurance Claim After a Hurricane in Florida

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