Everything You Need to Know About Hurricane Damage Insurance Claims
Hurricane damage insurance claims can be messy. It’s easy to get confused over what is and is not covered. Today, we’re highlighting the successful strategies and tips you can use to manage your hurricane damage insurance claim – and maximize your claim settlement from the insurance company.
Will Homeowner’s Insurance Policies Cover Hurricane Damage?
Some hurricane damage is covered by an ordinary home insurance policy, while other damage is not covered.
Typically, anyone who lives in a hurricane-prone area will need to purchase additional hurricane insurance to cover hurricane damage. Those who live near the southeast coast of the United States, for example, may not be automatically covered for hurricane damage under their normal home insurance policy.
Additionally, the type of damage and how that damage was caused also affects whether or not it’s covered. Most home insurance policies cover wind damage, for example, but not all policies cover flood damage. Hurricanes can bring both high winds and flooding, which is one reason why hurricane damage insurance claims are complicated.
Whether you are covered for hurricane damage or not depends on:
- The type of damage
- How the damage was caused (flooding damage, wind damage, etc.)
- The type of homeowner coverage you purchased (ordinary home insurance or a specific hurricane insurance policy)
- Where you live
Based on all of these factors, your hurricane damage may or may not be covered. Read your home insurance policy to verify that you have hurricane coverage.
If you have suffered damage from a hurricane and need help determining if your property damage is covered or how to proceed, a public insurance adjuster can help with a free initial policy review and insurance claim case evaluation.
What is Hurricane Insurance? What Type of Insurance Covers Hurricane Damage?
If you live in a hurricane-prone area, then you will most likely need to buy two or more insurance policies to ensure your property is protected against hurricane damage.
Technically, there’s no single insurance policy known as ‘hurricane insurance’. Instead, you need to buy policies like windstorm insurance, flood insurance, and sewer backup insurance to ensure your property is protected during a hurricane. Policies that cover hurricane damage can include all of the following:
- Homeowner, renter, or condo insurance (including endorsements for windstorm and sewer backup damage)
- Windstorm coverage
- NFIP Flood Insurance and Excess Flood Insurance (for homes worth more than $250,000)
The United States government introduced the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through FEMA. Thanks to the NFIP, homeowners living in hurricane-prone areas can buy “flood insurance that covers hurricane storm surge” for their homes. Traditional insurance companies don’t provide coverage in these areas, which is why NFIP Flood Insurance and Excess Flood Insurance may be your best option.
Sewer Backup Damage After a Hurricane
Another thing that complicates hurricane damage insurance claims is sewer backup damage. Sewer backup damage may be covered if the source of the backup is heavy rainfall and you purchased a sewer backup endorsement as an add-on to your home insurance policy.
However, if the sewer backup is caused by a flood, and you do not have flood insurance, then your sewer backup damage may not be covered.
It’s also important to have endorsements on your ordinary homeowner’s insurance for sewer backup and windstorm damage. Sewer backup can occur after a hurricane.
Ask your insurance company about adding a sewer backup endorsement to your existing home insurance policy.
Types of Damage Caused by a Hurricane
Hurricanes can cause all different types of damage. Depending on the type of damage caused by a hurricane, your home insurance policy may or may not cover it. Common types of hurricane damage include:
- Wind damage
- Damage caused by heavy rainfall
- Flooding damage
- Storm surge damage
- Tornado damage
- Sewer backup damage
- Hurricane roof damage
In many hurricanes, a home is damaged by multiple forces of nature. Your home might flood with sewer backup, for example, while your roof is destroyed by heavy winds.
Insurance companies will make their best effort to distinguish the different types of damage. They do this because each type of damage has a limit or maximum amount payable. Additionally, each type of damage is subject to a deductible.
In other words, if your home is damaged by both flooding and windstorm damage, then you may have to pay two different deductibles. And, if you use up coverage for one peril, then you may have to pay remaining damages out of pocket – even if you have leftover coverage for another peril.
Windstorm Deductibles and Hurricane Damage
Certain states have a special deductible for windstorm damage. In all of the following states, you can purchase an endorsement for windstorm damage. This windstorm damage will have a different deductible than your ordinary policy. Coverage limits and exclusions vary from state to state. However, having a windstorm deductible makes it more likely that hurricane damage will be covered.
All of the following states have a special deductible for windstorms: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
You Can’t Buy Hurricane Insurance When a Storm is Days Away
Some homeowners in hurricane-prone areas think they’re clever when they wait to buy hurricane insurance until a hurricane is in the forecast.
Unfortunately for these homeowners, most insurance companies have a 15 day waiting period on things like windstorm insurance. Because of that 15 day waiting period, you cannot buy ‘hurricane insurance’ as a hurricane is bearing down on the coast. Once a tropical storm or a hurricane enters your area, coverage can’t be placed until the storm passes.
Similar rules exist for flood insurance. Typically, there’s a 30 day waiting period before coverage takes effect.
Additionally, most insurance companies temporarily stop selling all hurricane-related damage insurance before a hurricane watch. Laws vary between insurance companies and states. Generally, however, you will not be able to purchase any hurricane-related insurance policies within 48 hours of the start of a hurricane watch. Even if you are able to purchase a policy, the policy may not be active until after the hurricane has passed.
Hurricane Insurance Claim Tips
- Consider Buying Insurance Even in Low-Risk Zones: Approximately 25% of insurance claims paid out by FEMA each year are for homes in low-risk zones. Some homeowners avoid buying insurance for hurricane damage because they live in a low-risk zone. In reality, it may be in your best interest to buy hurricane insurance if you’re in any hurricane-prone region.
- Hold Hurricane Insurance Year-Round to Avoid Exclusions: Insurance companies stop selling flood insurance and windstorm insurance in the days before a hurricane watch begins. Additionally, flood insurance and windstorm insurance may take 15 to 30 days to be activated. Because of these restrictions, you cannot buy ‘hurricane insurance’ in the days leading up to a disaster. Hold it year-round to make sure your property is protected.
- Keep Track of Meal and Accommodation Expenses After a Hurricane: Home insurance covers more than just the cost of repairing your home to pre-loss condition. Home insurance also covers your living expenses – say, if your home is uninhabitable after a disaster. Keep track of additional living expenses such as lodging and meal expenses in the days and weeks following a hurricane if your home is unsafe or uninhabitable.
- Prepare for a Higher Deductible with Hurricane Damage: An average home insurance policy has a deductible of around $500. Hurricane insurance, however, has a much higher deductible. In many cases, hurricane insurance deductibles are based on a percentage of the total claim. You may need to pay 2% to 5% of your coverage amount before receiving a hurricane insurance payout.
- Consider Hiring a Public Adjuster for Hurricane Damage Insurance Claims: A public adjuster is an insurance industry professional on your side that specializes in property damage insurance claims. Public Adjusters are dedicated to properly managing your insurance claim from beginning to end. A good public adjuster takes over your claim, negotiating with the insurance industry on your behalf to simplify the claim process and obtain an honest, justified claim settlement. Hurricane insurance claims can be complicated. With that complication and widespread damage comes increased chances for claims to be delayed, underpaid or denied.
Public adjusters provide expert help with hurricane claims while ensuring you receive fair treatment and your damage is covered under the terms of your insurance policy – so that you can make the necessary repairs to recover from a loss.
Final Advice on Hurricane Insurance Claims
Countrywide, approximately 7 million homes are at risk for hurricane storm surge damage alone. Millions of additional homes can be damaged by flooding, wind damage, storm damage, and other hurricane-related issues. Whether on the coast or hundreds of miles inland, you may be at significant risk for hurricane damage.
Follow the guide above to ensure your home insurance covers hurricane damage. Or, if you’re struggling to get hurricane damage covered after a disaster, then consider hiring a public adjuster with ClaimsMate. Hurricane insurance claims can be tricky. A public adjuster could be the difference between getting hurricane damage covered – or being forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs out of pocket.