Hurricane Irma barreled down on us with all of her forceful winds and torrential rains. She was scary and relentless. There was mass evacuation. Commercial flights were booked. Trains were booked. There was gridlock with the concern as to whether gas would even be available. There were many people that did not evacuate, uncertain as to the eventual path Irma would take. Originally projecting an easterly course, people on the east coast evacuated to the west coast, central Florida or out-of-state. She then shifted to a westerly course forcing people on the west coast to evacuate to the east coast, central Florida, or out-of-state. It was chaos stemming from the total unpredictability of Mother Nature. It was chaos stemming from the dreadful images of Hurricane Harvey. Mother Nature and all of her uncertainty is undoubtedly frightening, as proven by her devastation throughout the amazing state of Florida.
We are fortunate. We made it through her wrath. We have our life and our health. This is the most important. I repeat — the most important. Sure, there may be property damage at our house or in our community, but it could always be worse. I repeat again — it could always be worse. Assets are replaceable. Life and health is not replaceable.
When it comes to property damage, perspective is important. Do not forget perspective. Please do not engage in an emotional knee jerk reaction and hire the first person that comes your way to assist with the damage and fallout of Irma. Disaster unfortunately causes others and the unqualified to prey on vulnerabilities. Take a deep breath and do not neglect to digest your damage and do your due diligence on your course of action and hiring someone you will trust and know will assist in your needs. Here are some tips I encourage:
1) Survey the damage. After you have initially digested and assessed the damage, do another walk-through of your property and survey and notate the damage you are observing. Either get a pen and pad and write down your assessment or use your phone, ipad, or laptop to memorialize your observations.
2) Persuasively photograph the damage. Sure, everyone tells you to do this. But, I am telling you to look at the photos you take to ensure you are capturing the damage to the best of your ability. This means to focus on the elevation of your photo and the proximity of your camera or phone (in the case of a camera phone) to the damage or item you are capturing. The reason for this is to persuasively capture the damage – take photos from various elevations, angles, and distances to capture the water damage and hurricane-caused damage. Correlate the photo with your written survey. If you use a camera that is not a camera phone, date stamp the photograph.
3) Persuasively video the damage. Similar to above, if you have a systemic leak, do not just photograph that leak. Take a video of it that captures the water intrusion and movement of the leak. Correlate your video with your written survey. You can also take a video of the damage and narrate that damage as you are observing it.
4) Obtain a copy, if you can, of your property insurance policy or your declaration page so that you can submit a claim ASAP. If you have a property insurance policy, have this handy. Insurance is complex and it is always advisable that you work with a professional when submitting a claim under your policy for hurricane-related damage. You will want to submit an insurance claim soon to report the damage caused by Irma. Your property insurer is anticipating claims caused by Irma.
5) Hire a trustworthy and qualified professional. There will be a lot of lawyers and/or public adjusters soliciting your business. Lots of them. They will be offering to help. Some will have good intentions. Others will not. They will want you to pay them a contingency percentage of anything you receive from your property insurer (oftentimes, a minimum of 20% or more based on the issue). You want someone QUALIFIED and you can TRUST – that you know will not take advantage of the situation and will keep you informed and give you the best advice so that you can make the most informed decisions. This is very important and based on the severity of the damage you may want to explore different options to compensate a professional.
6) If you hire a contractor, make sure they are licensed. If you hire a contractor to implement immediate repairs and remediate water intrusion, make sure they are licensed and read what you sign. A reason to engage a professional is to ensure you are properly notifying your property insurer and you are not being taken advantage of by hiring a qualified professional. Also, make sure you save all contracts, invoices, and payments you make to preserve a basis for reimbursement from your property insurer.
7) Do not unilaterally discard any damaged contents or otherwise. Do not start throwing things away or discarding damage before you engage in items 1 – 5 above. A reason you want to hire a professional is so that you do not prejudice your rights by discarding potential evidence before notifying your insurer.
The key is not to act haphazardly based on your emotional reaction to the damage. I know it is emotional. I get it. But, because it is emotional, you want to make sure that you are implementing prudent decisions moving forward to maximize your property insurance. You want to make sure you are implementing a path that benefits YOU!
Please contact David Adelstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.