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A Guide for Natural Disaster Claims

The number of lives lost from natural disasters can vary from year to year; some years pass with few deaths before a large natural disaster takes far too many lives. According to Our World in Data, if you look at the average over the past decade, approximately 60,000 individuals worldwide passed away due to a natural disaster.

Our World in Data has found that in multiple years, the number of deaths can frequently be less than 10,000. However, they likewise see the catastrophic impact of shock events such as the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami; the 2005 Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, LA; and the 2010 Port-au-Prince earthquake in Haiti.

What is a Natural Disaster?

According to the Department of Homeland Security, a natural disaster consists of all types of extreme weather conditions which pose a significant danger to human health and safety, property, critical infrastructure, and homeland security. Each natural disaster is typically explained to be a circumstance that causes building and/or structural damage due to natural causes that are not within human control.

Natural catastrophes happen seasonally and without warning, causing the nation to experience frequent durations of disruption, unpredictability, financial loss, and even possible death. There are numerous kinds of natural disasters, consisting of winter storms, floods, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, or any combination of the like. 

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover a Natural Disaster?

Most natural disasters are uncertain and tough to gauge. Because of this, it can be challenging to recuperate losses for any damages to properties that you own.

To ensure that you are secured when disaster strikes, it is very important to consider whether your renters or homeowners insurance policy covers natural disasters when renting or buying a home. Natural disasters can include:

  • Lightning strikes
  • Hail Damage
  • Mudslides
  • Rockslides
  • Tsunamis
  • Other common natural disasters

Most standard homeowners insurance policies cover a vast array of situations; nevertheless, other possible disasters need to be added to your policy. Homeowners' insurance policies are critical to have so that when a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado, happens, a homeowner is not required to pay out-of-pocket to repair any damage that occurred. Insurance policies cover anything from items lost to theft or fire damage brought on by specific natural disasters.

When a natural disaster hits, insurers have a duty to ensure that their clients receive payment reliably and feasibly. Policyholders specifically pay their premiums on time so they can obtain coverage during dreadful times like these.

High-Risk Areas

Generally, natural disasters are not covered by a basic homeowners insurance policy if you reside in a high-risk area, such as a flat area on the edge of a river or on an active fault. Due to this absence of coverage, homeowners generally purchase supplemental policies that cover specific types of natural disasters depending upon the conditions in where their home lies. However, if you live in a high-risk location, there is the potential that you will have to pay more for your general policy to cover that increased risk.

Flooding

Since flooding can be found in many different forms, not all sources of flooding are treated the same. Flooding can come from:

  • Rivers
  • Plumbing failures
  • Coastal surges or sneak waves
  • Sinkholes
  • Excess rain

Relatively speaking, many homeowners insurance policies specifically exclude flood-related damage. The only exception is cases that are directly correlated to flooding from damaged plumbing infrastructure, such as a leaky pipe.

However, if you live in an area that frequently floods, you can purchase a special flood protection policy. In 1968, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was started so that homeowners in flood-prone areas could buy flood insurance. The NFIP is through private insurance providers; however, it is supported by the United States federal government. The cost of flood insurance through the NFIP is decided by the measures the community you reside in has taken to decrease the risk of flood damage.

Hurricanes and Tornadoes

Homeowners' insurance policies cover any wind damage resulting from natural disasters (primarily hurricanes), but they do not include the flooding that often follows storm surges from hurricanes. 

Damage as the result of a tornado is usually covered, such as:

  • Any and all damage considered to be wind damage
  • Water damage related to tornadoes (e.g., rain that comes through a roof that was damaged in a tornado)

Most states on the East and Gulf coast are prone to hurricanes; however, states like Florida and Louisiana are the most vulnerable due to their close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Individuals that live in these states ought to consider buying flood insurance or certain "beach and windstorm" insurance to protect their homes in the case of a hurricane damaging them.

Many insurers aim to make enormous amounts of money, and hurricanes can cost a state or region tens of billions of dollars in property damage. Due to these insurance companies' lucrative motives, it is necessary to completely understand every detail of your homeowners’ insurance policy, mainly if you reside in a high-risk area. For instance, various hurricane insurance claims involve debates over how the terms "wind damage" and "flood damage" are defined by insurance providers. 

Earthquakes

Numerous different aspects determine the cost of earthquake insurance. Those elements include:

  • Location of the house
  • Materials used in its construction
  • The way it is constructed
  • The integrity of its foundation
  • Number of stories or levels
  • Home's insured value
  • Policyholder's chosen level of coverage

Even if a homeowner lives in a location that is not necessarily known for earthquake activity, they still have the option of purchasing supplemental earthquake insurance at a relatively low premium. For instance, people that reside in Missouri can buy very inexpensive earthquake insurance even though the state is situated on the unfamiliar but potentially disastrous New Madrid Fault. 

Volcanoes

Even if you do not live near an active volcano, your homeowners' insurance policy probably covers damage from an unlikely volcanic eruption. Standard policies particularly cover damage related to:

  • Ash
  • Dust
  • Particulate matter
  • Lava flow
  • Initial removal of these materials

Standard policies do not cover:

  • Landslides
  • Shock waves
  • Tremors
  • Ash deposited later (from the wind)

An individual that owns a home near an active volcano, even in parts of Washington, can buy additional coverage for volcanic disasters to guarantee their home is protected in the circumstances a volcano erupts and damages their home.

The bottom line is that when a natural disaster strikes, you should be able to rely on your insurance company to help fix any damage that is covered within your policy. Sadly, more times than not, insurance companies underpay on their claims or reject a claim altogether in order to profit as much as possible. If you have the right coverage, but the insurance company claims that you do not, a lawyer can review your policy and help you recover full compensation. Contact our skilled lawyers at The Cochran Firm today to help you fight for the settlement you deserve for natural disaster damages.

Insurance Companies Underpaying on Claims

Most insurance companies seek one thing and one thing only: money. In order to profit as much as possible, insurance providers use a variety of strategies to underpay on claims or even deny the claim completely. Some of these strategies include:

  • Claiming that the type of damage is not covered in a clients’ policy
  • Applying inaccurate markdowns to determine the value of an asset
  • Using inaccurate, outdated price lists when construction prices have increased
  • Failing to value the cost of repairs/replacements accurately, especially pertaining to objects
  • Standing in the way of processing a claim in hopes of increasing the likelihood that a policyholder will become desperate and agree to a smaller payout.

Businesses have even discovered that by lowballing insurance holder's cases, they can save millions of dollars.

While the federal government funds flood insurance plans and there is no revenue intention in this case, in homeowners protection, where businesses pay out of their own pockets, they do obtain earnings and have full intention of making a profit.

Examples of Insurance Companies Underpaying on Claims

Hurricane Isaac

In one legal suit, Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, a state-run insurance provider, was sued for underpayment of property insurance claims after Hurricane Isaac hit. Legal actions varied concerning the insurance policies breach of contract. There were some claims that were underpaid by $40,000 and others by as much as $70,000. After the devastating storm, many families could not repair their homes due to the deliberate underpayment of the claim.

Hurricane Sandy

After Hurricane Sandy hit, numerous insurance policyholders were refused insurance policy protection for damages suffered after flooding from the storm. Fabricated reports established that damage to the home "existed before the storm" or could have been "due to natural planet activity." After this storm, experts in the field of insurance plans identified that insurance providers systematically declined reputable insurance policy cases in addition to severely underpaid what they should have.

The fact of the matter is that many insurance companies will do whatever it takes to make a profit, even if it is at the expense of one of their clients. Fortunately, our experienced lawyers at The Cochran Firm are prepared to help you fight for fair settlements for the damages you have suffered due to a natural disaster.

Has Your Property Been Damaged Due to a Natural Disaster?

If you have experienced the nightmare of seeing your property become extremely damaged by the brutal forces that accompany a natural catastrophe, you are likely facing tremendously expensive repairs.

The unbelievably strong winds that hurricanes and tornadoes bring habitually cause horrific damage to communities throughout the United States, a fact that is only increased by the risk of flood damage. States with dry, hot summers are vulnerable to wildfires that quickly consume enormous areas of land, blazing out of control and burning anything along its path. Earthquakes also cause considerable damage due to their rattling of structures, causing harm and destruction to anybody and anything standing in its way. Winter storms bring extreme hail and freezing temperatures that typically cause severe damage to your property. Thankfully, our experienced, resourceful natural disaster attorneys at The Cochran Firm know just what to do and are eager to help you navigate your claim throughout this unprecedented time.

How Do I Handle a Natural Disaster Claim?

Dealing with the impact of a hurricane, tornado, fire, or any other natural disaster can be very stressful and even frightening. Policyholders expect their insurance companies to repair any damage related to a natural disaster once a claim is filed; however, that is not always the case. Actually, policyholders frequently make filing errors that can cost them thousands of dollars. This reality is usually connected to consumers failing to read the fine print of their policy, leading to being underinsured and sometimes even paying for coverage out of their pocket.

So, if you are unsure of what your insurance policy will cover to file a successful claim, consider the following things when filing your natural disaster claim.

  1. Assess the damages you have sustained. Make sure to take pictures and keep a list of the pieces of property that have been damaged. Be very sure that you do not throw out any property until an insurance adjuster has reviewed it for your claim. You can try and make temporary repairs to your home and move your personal property into storage if your house cannot be secured. Insurance policies sometimes allow for the reimbursement of storage units until you can move back into your home.
  2. Go through your policy meticulously and be sure you understand what will be covered in regards to clean-up ad repairs. Most insurance policies reimburse for mold, painting, carpet, wall repairs (or insulation), and rewiring and electric work. 
  3. If your home is still livable but your home needs repairs as a result of a natural disaster, make sure to consult with your insurance company about the repairs that need to be made in a timely manner. Make sure you document all of your expenses (keep any/all receipts) no matter if you made the repairs yourself or hired someone else to do so.
  4. If you are not able to reside in your house after a natural disaster, make sure to record all of your expenses (meals, hotel rooms, transportation, etc.). A typical insurance policy usually offers a limited amount of coverage for these expenses.
  5. Be aware that the majority of insurance companies have a time limit on when you can file a claim, so it is vital that you file your claim as soon as possible. Once you file a claim, your insurance provider will send out an adjuster to survey the damage at no cost to you. Before you agree to the settlement terms, you have the choice to hire an independent contractor of your choice to review the adjuster’s survey or go over the inspection to make sure that all damage that needs to be covered will be covered.
  6. Make sure to stay up-to-date with your claim. If you believe there is a delay on your claim by the insurance company and you have contacted the claims department, and have not heard back from them, make sure to consult with an attorney to advance your claim.
  7. It’s okay not to agree to a settlement. When it comes down to it, insurance companies aim to profit as much as they can, so it is possible their settlement offer is less than you deserve. 

Even if you act promptly when sending your claim, there are lots of reasons why your claim could be delayed or, even worse, denied. You could be denied because you are underinsured, or in some instances, you may have adequate coverage, but you will not be compensated the full amount due to the terms and conditions of your policy. In this case, you will not be denied coverage; however, you will need to pay the remaining expenses out of pocket. Unfortunately, your coverage can be rejected if your home is damaged by a natural disaster that you do not have coverage for.

If you feel as if you have been taken advantage of by your insurer after a natural disaster, contact The Cochran Firm today. Our skilled lawyers are ready to walk you through the tough legal process and will defend you until you receive the compensation you deserve.

Why Choose The Cochran Firm 

The attorneys at The Cochran Firm are among the nation’s most successful and tenacious attorneys. When navigating through the legal process, you deserve to have an experienced attorney by your side. The Cochran Firm attorneys know how to fight for you. 

Here at The Cochran Firm, our experienced attorneys are ready to help you or someone you love that has suffered from a natural disaster claim. Our attorneys work closely with each of our clients using pooled resources and their access to legal expertise to ensure the most effective legal representation available is provided. 

You need the help of an experienced attorney who has proven successful results in other similar cases to guide you through the process and help you to receive the monetary damages you are entitled to under the law. Our attorneys have won over $30 Billion in verdicts and settlements for our clients. At The Cochran Firm, we have the offices, the experience, the results, and the resources to aid clients throughout the United States.

If you’re looking for an experienced natural disaster lawyer to help you pursue justice and obtain compensation for your losses, please contact our attorneys at The Cochran Firm today for your free, no-obligation initial consultation today.

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