As we prepare for Hurricane Ian in Tampa Bay and throughout Florida, one important item on your checklist for both your personal and business hurricane preparation plan should be to be aware of your hurricane/windstorm coverage in your insurance policies. While we all hope to avoid major impact or damage from the storm, even minor damage may be covered under your insurance policy. However, the conditions of your insurance policy may require that you report claims prior to doing anything other than emergency repairs. As such, a review of your policies before the storm may not only be helpful to learn what damages are covered but may also avoid taking steps that compromise what would otherwise be covered claims.
Know Your Deductibles
Florida statutes protect homeowners from unexpectedly declining windstorm/hurricane coverage, but allow insurance companies to set a different (and usually higher) deductible for claims related to hurricanes. These deductibles can be as high as 10% of the policy limits for the property/dwelling coverages and may also apply to claims discovered in the days immediately after the hurricane. Knowing your deductible will allow you to gain a more accurate understanding of your potential claims following a hurricane.
For your commercial lines, you should be sure to review your policy to ensure you have windstorm coverage and again check to see if a higher deductible applies.
Whose Policy Applies and What Coverages Apply
If you are on an active construction site, you likely have a general liability policy. But these liability policies are unlikely to cover the more common losses caused by a windstorm or hurricane. Common hurricane claims are more likely to be covered under a builder's risk policy. As you prepare your project site for the storm, you should determine who has purchased the builder's risk insurance and review that policy to see what coverages are available in the event of a loss.
Depending on the terms of your builder’s risk policy, there may be coverage for soft costs such as delays, expedited construction costs, consultant costs and possibly even attorney’s fees. Knowing your coverages before a claim arises will ensure that you are able to receive the insurance benefits that were purchased.
Be Prepared to File a Claim
As many insurance policies require claims be reported promptly after a loss and even before work is done to repair the loss, being prepared to file a claim before the storm hits will allow you to maximize your chance of recovery under the applicable insurance policies…it may also provide you with some peace of mind in a stressful situation. Good practices include identifying a point person with knowledge of the policy to inventory any potential damage and document the same with photographs, videos, and notes. Also, know who you need to report any claims to and what evidence or documentation is needed to report a claim. Know what types of damages will allow for emergency repairs and what claims need to be reported to the carrier before work can be started. And take pictures of your property before the storm hits so that you can show before and after pictures of the property.
While knowing your available insurance coverage is an important item in your hurricane preparations, the most important thing in any storm is to be safe and take all reasonable precautions to keep you, your loved ones, and those around you safe. From all of us at Hill Ward Henderson, we hope and pray that Hurricane Ian passes without major impact to our community.