Sanders Phillips Grossman assists home and business insurance policyholders who need help fighting or establishing their Hurricane Maria property damage claims with insurance providers after the claim has been denied.
Hurricane Maria victims must not let deadlines pass and should file their hurricane damage claims today. Policyholders who’ve had their claims denied or who have received illegal lowball offers from their insurance provider should seek a free case review with a hurricane claims expert attorney at Sanders Phillips Grossman in Puerto Rico.
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Many Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico need help now to recover from property losses the overwhelming storm left behind.
To get those needs repairs going and to receive proper compensation for personal property losses, Puerto Rico property owners must file their claims for compensation and Proof of Loss (POL) statements prudently with insurance groups and with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The information placed on these forms and the method used to document Hurricane Maria damages determines whether victims will get fast and fair settlements from their insurance providers or whether they’ll face long, drawn-out processes.
The nation’s top disaster law attorneys at Sanders Phillips Grossman in Puerto Rico and Florida want to help hurricane victims get back on their feet quickly. So, they’ve put their heads together and have come up with some frequently asked questions that most Hurricane Maria policyholders will need answers to when dealing with their insurance providers:
I am a Hurricane Maria Victim with property damage, where do I begin?
Read your insurance policy or have a Sanders Phillips Grossman disaster lawyer interpret it for you during a free consultation. A good deal of insurance policies only covers flood, wind, or fire damage, while others impose an all-inclusive underwriting for hurricane devastation. Your insurance policy is the root of figuring out how much your insurance provider owes you and what you need to do to get compensated.
How do I start the Hurricane Maria claims process?
Hurricane Maria victims must report their property damage losses with their insurance companies or with FEMA to get paid. Insurance policies and FEMA disaster relief applications have strict deadlines to follow for victims seeking compensation. You therefore must declare your property losses on time regardless if you are unsure about gross loss estimates or deductible values.
Many Hurricane Maria victims will call their insurance brokers to initiate the process while other individuals will file written claims. Puerto Rico’s expert disaster attorneys however highly recommend Hurricane Maria victims seek a free consultation and obtain legal advice BEFORE contacting their insurance provider.
Knowing your statutory rights under Puerto Rico law and understanding how to file complex hurricane insurance claims only reinforces your efforts when dealing with uncompromising insurance adjusters whose only duty is to settle with you for the least amount possible.
What do insurance companies ask, and what should I tell them?
Your insurance adjuster will need to know the source of your losses (fire, wind, or flooding) and when it took place (during or after the storm). Insurance companies will further demand a preliminary Cause of Loss (COL) statement from you that describes in detail exactly how the storm damaged the property.
Victims should look out for insurance adjusters informing them their policy does not cover a particular COL from Hurricane Maria. What we discovered after our involvement in helping Hurricane Irma victims get compensated for property damages was that most insurance representatives who denied claims based on COL did so under bath faith or because they misinterpreted the policy’s language. A few policyholders likewise failed to give their adjusters accurate COL descriptions.
Your COL answers are imperative to whether your adjuster will accept or deny your Hurricane Maria property damage claim. If you are unsure of what caused your losses, we recommend you retain an emergency relief attorney to file your claim.
Hurricane relief advocates send engineering and economic teams to homes or businesses to assess and appraise property damage. They also file competent COL statements on behalf of the policyholder to make sure their clients receive maximum compensation on their claim.
What should I do while waiting for my insurance provider to respond?
Whether filing a Hurricane Maria insurance claim alone or having a skilled attorney do it for you, policyholders hold certain legal obligations as processing moves forward.
Disaster law in Puerto Rico imposes a duty to mitigate (minimize) losses on property owners who claim hurricane damages. Simply put, policyholders must protect their real properties from further damage after the storm passes by taking prudent steps to reduce losses. After mitigating damages, your insurance provider must repay you for the expenses paid to mitigate damages.
Example: Hurricane Maria winds damaged doorways and windows in your business. You owe a legal duty to your insurance company to pay someone to board up the holes to protect inventory and property from theft and further damage until your provider closes your claim.
I lost my policy, how can I receive a quick replacement?
Keep in mind that insurance representatives are often quite busy after major hurricanes strike. Many policyholders will have lost their underwriting in the storm and will bombard their agents with demands for copies of policies. The heavy queue often leads to huge delays in obtaining the documents needed to file your claim.
Our Hurricane Maria insurance advocates at Sanders Phillips Grossman in Puerto Rico and Florida are experts in expediting delivery of certified insurance policy copies and Declarations Pages for hurricane victims. Policyholders will only need to identify their insurance company and policy number during their free consultation, and their professional hurricane property claims lawyer will do the work for them.
What is a Declaration Page?
Every insurance underwriting has a one-page summary that indicates the underwriter’s name, the insurance policy number, the limits of coverage, the insured’s deductibles, and standard endorsement forms. Also known as the “Declarations Page,” this very important document is the minimum proof you’ll need to start a Hurricane Maria property damage claim.
How do I know if I am covered?
The primary coverage limits specified on your policy’s Declarations Page explains how much your insurance provider will pay you for legitimate property damages and how much money they’ll deduct from your total compensation (your deductible).
The Declarations Page is not an all-inclusive version of what you’re entitled to under your policy. Disaster claim attorneys are trained to scrutinize an insurance policy’s language and fine print to determine if their client is allowed to collect on additional coverage or claim extensions on filings.
Example: A policyholder’s Declarations Page did not list extended “Replacement Coverage” that grants full allowance for replacing home or business even when damages exceed policy limits.
Your lawyer must read your policy carefully to identify veiled covenants and purchased hidden coverage to make certain you’ll take the largest payout on your Hurricane Maria property damage claim.
What is a Proof of Loss?
Both private insurance companies and FEMA require Hurricane Maria victims to produce proof of loss before registering a claim. Keep in mind, to qualify for compensation, POL documentation must include pictures of damages, proof of purchase, model numbers, and serial numbers for items like missing appliances, electronics, business equipment, or machinery.
A few insurance companies do not compel POL on small claims. Flood damage and larger Hurricane Maria home and business damage claims however will ALWAYS need POL documentation, which policyholders must surrender without error and on time or risk seeing their claim rejected.
Puerto Rico residents affected by Hurricane Maria don’t have to establish their proof of property damage or loss alone — the Hurricane Maria economic and engineering professionals at Sanders Phillips Grossman are masters at compiling legally potent POL statements for hurricane victims.
When you retain an emergency relief attorney from our law firm, your lawyer will promptly investigate damages by assigning a professional team to your home or business to gather evidence of loss or damaged property.
Once policyholders submit valid POLs, insurance companies in Puerto Rico and on the mainland must reply within THIRTY days; failure to do so opens the claim to statutory review.
What other information is needed to process Hurricane Maria property damage claims?
After filing complete and timely POL statements, Puerto Rico policyholders can further support their damage claims by collecting and submitting the following items with their claims:
- Photographs and videos of post-storm damage before mitigation.
- Up to three estimates for property repair or replacement.
- A general damage accounting (loss of income, loss of property use).
- Receipts for mitigating damages or making necessary repairs.
Why are flood insurance policies distinct from other hurricane coverage, and how do I claim flood damage?
Insurance providers often require home and business proprietors in Puerto Rico to get flood insurance before they underwrite policies that protect property from other hurricane damage.
Flood insurance is a separate coverage that only protects property from rising waters. Both private insurance companies and FEMA provide flood insurance protection, but qualifying for federal coverage will depend on how and when policyholders register their claims.
Hurricane Maria Victims must submit complete and immaculate POL flood documentation on correct federal forms within SIXTY days of the loss to receive FEMA compensation.
This deadline is binding unless FEMA or your insurance provider waives or extends the time limit in writing requirements for the sixty days expires.
Remember: Insurance adjusters may not extend flood damage cutoff dates without written authorization from the underwriter.
How are all-inclusive hurricane policies different from flood and windstorm coverage?
Insurance policies in Puerto Rico often exclude damage provoked by windstorms and floods; policyholders must, therefore, purchase separate wind and flood coverage to receive “all-risk” hurricane insurance.
Private insurance providers on the island ordinarily offer wind coverage supplements for homes and businesses. However, numerous insurance policies exclude flood damage coverage to save the policyholder on premium costs.
In such a case, the insurance provider will refer hurricane victims to the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to cover water damage losses after disaster strikes. If you need FEMA NFIP coverage, you MUST file a timely POL report with sufficient documentation with the Agency or risk not getting compensated for damages.
What are hurricane claim deductibles?
Puerto Rico and mainland disaster law allow insurance providers to compel policyholders to pay part of their Hurricane Maria property damages. Underwriters structure hurricane deductibles as a percentage of policy limits or a proportion of overall property loss to withhold from valid claim payouts.
Policy limit deductibles are the norms in today’s hurricane damage coverage and take effect soon after national weather services officially “name” a storm. Insurance providers may further impose multiple hurricane deductibles in seasons where policyholders have sustained damages from more than one storm.
How do insurance adjusters investigate Hurricane Maria claims?
Most insurance policies are mute on how adjusters approve hurricane property damage claims. Puerto Rico disaster law and federal rules however govern industry standards and regulate how adjusters should perform when processing legitimate hurricane damage claims for prompt and efficient compensation.
Puerto Rico statutes compel insurance adjusters to provide Hurricane Maria victims with knowledgeable and skillful claims service and to use the utmost “good faith” in assessing flood, wind, or fire losses without delay.
Insurance adjusters further hold legal duties to disclose fully the hurricane coverage available for policyholders immediately after disaster strikes and to advise victims on what benefits are available during claims processing.
In a perfect world, things work out as the law intends; however, many Puerto Rico home and business owners have had to retain expert insurance attorneys at Sanders Phillips Grossman to handle their Hurricane Maria claim after “bad faith” adjusters unfairly delayed, denied, or underpaid their property damage claims.
Public, internal, and third-party adjusters, what’s the difference?
Insurance companies employ internal adjusters to assess and scrutinize hurricane property damage claims. Insurance providers also contract with third-party adjusters to process claims when workloads stack up due to excessive filings. Both internal and third-party adjusters often perform their duties with loyalty focused on the insurance provider’s business objectives.
Policyholders hire public adjusters to assess their hurricane property damage claims when they feel a bad faith performance on part of their insurance provider warrants an independent second opinion.
When should Hurricane Maria Victims hire public adjusters?
If every internal and third-party adjuster processed their hurricane damage claims in good faith, policyholders would never have to hire disaster law attorneys or public adjusters to dispute property damage claims.
Professional hurricane claim advocates much like partners Sanders Phillips Grossman offices in Florida and Puerto Rico hold access to teams of public adjusters who are disciplined in scrutinizing rejected or underestimated property damage claims objectively.
These public adjusters are ready to work for victims so that they’ll have the proper POL documentation, expert testimony, and legal evidence needed to dispute complex Hurricane Maria damage claims in court for maximum compensation awards.
Am I obliged to attend an “Examination Under Oath” hearing?
When you purchased your home or business hurricane insurance policy, you most likely agreed to give the guarantor an Examination Under Oath (EUO) as a condition for receiving compensation when disaster strikes.
An EUO is a sworn affidavit drawn by the courts to document property claim POL evidence and other claim assertions. Policyholders should consider taking their hurricane insurance attorneys with them to requisite EUO hearings simply because victims may inadvertently perjure themselves during proceedings by providing the courts with misstatements or incorrect testimony.
What is total property loss and am I entitled to receive it?
State and local government assessors in Puerto Rico appraise all home and business properties prior to purchase for tax purposes. When a legitimate Hurricane Maria property damage claim exceeds fifty percent of the asset’s appraised tax value, the policyholder often is permitted to claim a “total loss” and may collect compensation up to the policy limits on that insured property. Total loss claims sometimes provide for future damages as well to take care of items such as to permit costs for rebuilding completely demolished homes or businesses.
Am I allowed to receive partial compensation on undisputed claims even though I have not agreed to settle the entire claim?
Yes. Disaster law in Puerto Rico compels insurance companies to pay undisputed hurricane damage claims promptly, despite if compensation only partially indemnifies policyholders.
This means insurance companies hold fiduciary obligations to not withhold undisputed compensation when payments settle only portions of legitimate claims. Parties can later work out the disputed damages privately, or they can have a court of law or an arbitrator resolve the matter at a later date.
What do I do if my insurance provider denies my legitimate Hurricane Maria property damage claim?
Insurance companies must perform diligent and complete investigations backed with auxiliary documentation before rejecting a Hurricane Maria claim.
By law, adjusters who deny claims must give policyholders writing that (i) explains the reason for the denial; (ii) acknowledges the covenant in the insurance policy that serves as the basis for denial; (iii) cites relevant disaster law or local statutes that support the rejection; and (iv) provides the policyholder complete information on remedies for appeal.
The Office of the Insurance Commissioner of Puerto Rico mandates insurance providers to comply with all the above-mentioned requisites; albeit failure to follow state rules often forces policyholders to hire a professional Hurricane Maria insurance attorney to litigate their unlawfully denied claim.
Can FEMA relief funds pay lawyer fees and legal expenses to litigate bad faith insurance practices?
YES. The emergency relief agency helps Hurricane Maria victims pay certain hardships that fall outside of their individual policies, which may include attorney fees and expenses related to litigating denied delayed, or disputed insurance claims.
The Hurricane Maria disaster law attorneys at Sanders Phillips Grossman in Puerto Rico and Florida are experts in petitioning FEMA to pay legal expenses linked to brining bad faith damage claims to court.
If you feel like you’re a victim of bad faith Hurricane Maria insurance claim processing or if you need a professional disaster law attorney to file your property damage claim at no cost to you, contact Sanders Phillips Grossman to stand up for your consumer rights and to get you the maximum compensation you deserve.