Hurricane Sandy Destroyed My House: What You Need To Do Next

by nadines on November 7, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Destroyed My House: What You Need To Do Next

Hurricane Sandy has killed dozens of people and caused billions of dollars in damage, making it one of the deadliest and costly hurricanes in history. For the residents caught in its path, the damage can be horrific. Damaged automobiles, structures, and misplaced property can create a chaos in the aftermath of the storm. Regaining a sense of normalcy requires a careful assessment of the damage and documentation prior to dealing with insurance companies.

Determining the Damage

The first step after a hurricane is determining the full scope of the damage. Hurricanes can cause property to become damaged or even blow away in the wind and disappear altogether. Hurricanes typically cause either wind or water damage.

In the high winds brought by a hurricane, ordinary objects can become dangerous projectiles. Flying branches, signs and other debris can shatter windows, dent car panels, and even cause personal injury. Unsecured objects from one person’s property can even damage another person’s property. Depending upon the circumstances, the owner of the object may be liable for that damage. If the storm was reasonably foreseeable and the property was not secured in a reasonable manner, the original owner of the property may be liable in tort for negligence.

Hurricane Sandy also flooded many areas in the Northeastern United States. Major flood damage is a problem in low-lying areas and in basements. Water damage may not be immediately obvious; water may have seeped through gaps in the floors or molding, causing hidden damage to the building. Structures that were not boarded up or secured and were hit hard by the hurricane can suffer water damage if the roof was compromised or the windows were broken. Residents in the hurricane’s path should thoroughly inspect their roofs, windows, floors, and carpets for any sign of water damage and file a property insurance claim if damage has occurred.

Some insurance policies will cover only wind or only water damage. Unfortunately, some insurance companies will attempt to avoid paying the claims by alleging that the damage was not from one, but from the other.

Dealing With the Insurance Company

Like all companies, insurance companies exist to generate a profit for their shareholders. Some less scrupulous companies will take unethical or even illegal steps to avoid paying claims. As with any natural disaster, policyholders who suffered damage during Hurricane Sandy should take some basic precautions.

The first step in making a potentially complex insurance claim is to read the policy. Insurance policies often cover only limited types of damage; even policies that appear to offer broad coverage can include exclusions that will bar payments in certain types of disasters. By reading the policy ahead of time, the policyholder should understand the insurance company’s obligation when filing a claim.

Document the Damage

Before contacting the insurance company, policyholders should thoroughly document all of the damage caused by the hurricane. Extensive photographic and video documentation will help all parties stay honest during the claims process. Documentation of water damage can help policyholders avoid claims by the insurance company that no damage was done in the first place. Document all damage before cleaning up the scene. Broken windows, doors, and other types of damage may be replaced quickly in an attempt to avoid further damage; just document the scene prior to making these emergency repairs.

Contact the insurance company as soon as practical. If the insurance company refuses to pay a claim or offers an unsatisfactory settlement, policyholders should retain an attorney. Attorneys specializing in insurance law can help claimants determine the policy’s coverage limits and whether the insurance company is attempting to deny a valid claim. Attorneys can also represent clients when negotiating with the companies, thus ensuring that the insurers are not taking advantage of the insured.

The Cleanup

Cleaning up after the storm is the last step in regaining normalcy. After documenting the damage from the hurricane, replace any damaged doors or windows and secure any structures or vehicles that have been compromised by the storm. After a disaster strikes, looters may travel through an area in an attempt to steal undamaged property from the homes of innocent victims.

In the event that someone else’s property found its way onto a policyholder’s land, the policyholder should make an effort to identify the owner. By identifying the owner, the policyholder can be neighborly and return the property to its rightful place. If the item caused damage to the policyholder’s property, identifying the owner will be the first step in obtaining compensation for the damage.

Cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy will be a challenge. Fortunately, with quick action, thorough documentation, an understanding of one’s insurance policy, and legal representation, victims caught in the path of the hurricane can recover from the damage.

After experiencing many storms and understanding the importance of damage documentation, Nadine Swayne can commiserate with those affected by Hurricane Sandy and contributes this article on behalf of the law offices of Doyle and Raizner LLC.  It is important to hire an experienced and empathetic attorney that can help when it comes to a property insurance claim that an insurance company is refusing to cover. Recovery after a natural disaster can be eased with help and doesn’t have to be a daunting job for homeowners to work out alone.




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