Living in the Gulf South brings enormous benefits, but it comes with its challenges, too. Dangerous tornadoes, sweeping fires, and hurricanes are just a few of the natural disasters that can cause various types of property damage claims – not to mention criminal destruction of property.
As a homeowner, you pay your insurance premium each month with the understanding that if the unthinkable happens, your insurance company will be there for you. Unfortunately, it is often not that simple.
If you’ve tried to read through your insurance policy, you likely came away more confused than before you started. Full of legal jargon and confusing language, these contracts are not written for the layperson to understand.
That’s where Huber Thomas Law comes in. We can help you through the process of filing an insurance claim with a singular goal: getting you the compensation you are owed. We know this can be a confusing topic, and we are here to answer your questions so you can get through this difficult time and start rebuilding as soon as possible. Here are 5 things to know about property damage claims.
If you’re ready for a free legal consultation or have further questions about handling various types of property damage claims, contact Huber Thomas Law at (504) 274-2500.
According to Louisiana law, willful damage to property refers to “the simple criminal damage to property is the intentional damaging of any property of another, without the consent of the owner.” This includes vandalism and malicious disruption affecting your home, business, or vehicle.
What are the common examples of willful damage?
Common examples of willful damage include:
- Damage to windows
- Broken exterior lights
- Cutting or damage to trees, bushes, and other landscaping
- Knocking down mailboxes, signs, and other property
Does my homeowner’s insurance cover willful damage to my home?
Homeowner’s insurance should cover this type of damage, but you will need to read your policy to determine your specific coverage. In most cases, homeowner’s insurance will cover the cost of repairs or replacement of the damaged or destroyed property.
Does my auto insurance cover willful damage to my vehicle?
It depends on your insurance policy. If you have full coverage, then it is likely that willful damage to your vehicle is covered.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, insured losses from tornadoes top about $17 billion in the average year. Even a relatively weak EF0 tornado, which reaches maximum wind speeds of 85 miles per hour, can result in downed trees and other property damage. The most serious tornado, an EF5, has wind speeds of greater than 200 miles per hour and will destroy nearly every building in its wake.
Is the tornado damage to my home or vehicle covered by my insurance policy?
Your homeowner’s policy should cover tornado damage. Unfortunately, that does not mean that your insurance company will simply hand over a check for 100% of the cost of repairs and replacement. You may have to fight to get a speedy and fair payout.
If your vehicle is damaged in a tornado, it might be covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy if it was being kept in a garage at the time it was damaged or destroyed. Otherwise, your auto insurance policy might cover damage, depending on the level of coverage you elected to purchase.
Is debris removal included in my insurance policy?
Most homeowners’ policies will pay “reasonable expenses” for debris removal of your covered property. This would include removing damaged shingles, siding, etc. While there is likely no compensation for lost trees or bushes, your policy likely covers “reasonable expenses” to remove critically damaged trees and bushes from your property.
Fire damage in your home or business can be caused by everything from arson to downed power lines. In 2021, there was nearly $16 billion of direct property damage in the United States. This does not include the significant costs of secondary property damage from the smoke itself, or from the water or chemicals used to put out the fire.
Is fire damage included in my homeowner’s policy?
Fire damage is standard in most homeowners’ insurance policies. However, there might be exceptions for certain types of fires or for a homeowner’s actions that the insurance company claims led to the fire. You can purchase separate or additional coverage if you live in an area at high risk for fire.
What are the most common causes of fire damage?
Many things can cause fire damage in a home. Some of the most common causes include:
- Poor electrical work
- Lightning strike
- Overloaded electrical systems
- Ovens and other appliances
- Defective washing machines
Should I clean up the fire damage as soon as possible?
Many homeowners want to get back to a sense of normalcy as soon as possible and want to clean up the debris immediately. Remember that there could be evidence your attorney needs to prove your claim. Before removing anything, get written confirmation from your insurance company that they have fully inspected the site. Talk to an attorney if you are not sure.
What Do I Do if I Have One of the Abovementioned Types of Property Damage Claims?
The first step is to contact your insurance company and file a claim. The insurance company will then assign an adjuster to your case, who will start working on it. They will talk to you directly and inspect the property you are making a claim for. When they have completed their inspection, they will decide how much the insurance company is going to pay you
What Do I Do if My Property Insurance Claim is Denied?
In the unfortunate event that your insurance provider denies your claim, you should make sure you get the denial in writing. Then contact a Louisiana property damage attorney for help.
What Do I Do if the Insurance Adjuster Offers Less Than the Actual Cost of Repair?
Insurance companies often give the impression that you have no choice but to accept their offer. This is not necessarily true. If you do not believe that what they are offering is fair, you have the legal right to obtain fair compensation.
Why Isn’t the Insurance Company Offering Me Fair Payment for My Property Damage Claim?
Remember that the insurance adjuster works for the insurance company – not you. Insurance companies make money by taking in more money in policy premiums than they pay out in claims. Their goal is to pay as little as possible without triggering a lawsuit.
It is Taking My Insurance Company Forever to Pay Out My Property Damage Claim – Is There Anything I Can Do?
At Huber Thomas Law, we have seen insurance companies delay claims in the hope that the insured will either give up on collecting their claim or be willing to accept less than their claim is worth to get the process over with. Do not fall for this tactic – contact a property damage attorney instead.
What is Additional Living Expenses (ALE) Coverage?
Most homeowners, renters, and condo insurance policies will include additional living expense (ALE) coverage. It is designed to pay for extra expenses a homeowner faces if they are unable to live in their home due to a covered insurance claim.
What expenses does ALE cover?
ALE aims to bridge the gap between what your typical household expenses would have been if your property had not been damaged, and the additional expenses you incur due to the damage. It can cover things like:
- Hotels or rent for other temporary housing
- Additional food costs related to not having a kitchen (i.e., the cost of eating in restaurants)
- Paying for laundry services
- Boarding your pets
- Replacing your clothing
- Storage costs
- Renting furniture
Renters insurance and condo insurance also typically have additional living expenses insurance.
What are the limits for ALE?
It depends on your specific policy, but generally, it will not be higher than 20% of your dwelling coverage. For example, a 20% ALE limit on a home insured for $200,000 would be $40,000. This coverage aims to keep you at your “normal standard of living.” What this means could be negotiated between you and your insurer.
There might be time limits to your ALE coverage as well. Your insurance policy’s declarations page will outline the specifics of your ALE coverage.
What happens if my home is only partially damaged?
If you suffered damage from a hurricane or have other types of property damage claims in which it is not obvious that your home is uninhabitable, your insurance provider might claim that ALE coverage does not apply as you can live in your home.
Your property damage attorney can help you win a claim for ALE coverage in the event of such a denial.
Is There a Deadline to File a Lawsuit for Louisiana Property Damage Claims?
Yes. You do not have an unlimited amount of time to decide what your next step is. The statute of limitations on property damage claims in Louisiana is generally two years from the date the damage occurred. This is just one of the reasons to talk to a successful property damage attorney as soon as possible.
How Can an Attorney Help with Different Types of Property Damage Claims?
When you contact Huber Thomas Law, we will begin by reviewing your claim and the damage to your property. Our next steps will depend on the specifics of your case but could include the following:
- Working with expert witnesses
- Using cutting-edge technology to recreate the conditions of the cause of the damage
- Extensive research to build a strong claim on your behalf
More than nine out of ten cases will settle out of court, but we prepare for every case as though it is going to trial. This shows the insurance company that we are serious about recovering the maximum compensation we can. It also ensures that we can take your case to trial to get a fair outcome if required.
Call Today for Help with These and Other Types of Property Damage Claims
The above covers three of the many types of property damage claims you might face. At Huber Thomas Law, we can help with other insurance claims, including those related to hurricane damage including the most recent Hurricane Ida which made landfall in 2021. If you are ready to hold your insurance company accountable and get help recovering the maximum compensation you are eligible for, contact us today for a free legal consultation.
From dangerous hurricanes to tropical storms, the Gulf South often bears the brunt of natural
disasters. The result is destruction that affects homes, businesses, and major resources. These losses underscore the importance of having a comprehensive insurance policy that includes coverage for property damage.
Unfortunately, insurance jargon can be difficult to comb through, especially after disaster strikes. At Huber Thomas Law, we know how to handle property damage claims, and we can walk you through the process. Here’s what you should know about your rights and securing the compensation you’re owed.
What Is Considered Property Damage?
Property damage is defined as an injury to real or personal property. Real property is land and anything permanently attached to it, such as a house. Fortunately, property owners can obtain insurance to protect against the risks associated with these damages. Here are some of the most common types of property damage claims, especially in Louisiana and the surrounding states.
Hurricanes are perhaps the largest weather threat in Louisiana, as well as the entire Gulf South region. Driving rain and high winds come together to create catastrophic damage. Hurricane Laura, the most recent hurricane to date, destroyed more than 500,000 homes and businesses. From roofs torn off buildings to electrical fires, these weather events have deadly and disastrous potential.
It only takes an inch of floodwater to cause more than $25,000 in damage. Whether it’s carpet or hardwood, homes and businesses simply can’t withstand that type of moisture. The end result can be any or all of the following:
- Roof issues, destroyed flooring, and foundation cracks
- Mold and mildew on flooring, drywall, insulation, and belongings
- Damaged kitchen appliances
- Septic and well water clogs due to excess water and debris
- Damage to electrical wiring
Unfortunately, many homeowners' insurance policies don’t include flood damage. This coverage is provided through a separate policy.
Fires can happen in the blink of an eye. Space heaters and cooking mishaps make them a possibility anywhere. Downed power lines and wildfires are other causes that are commonly cited in property damage claims.
Fire-related property damage examples are broken into two categories. The first is primary damage due to the flames, but secondary damage often occurs due to smoke and the water used to put out the fire.
Louisiana and other nearby states ranked among the top 10 states that fell victim to tornadoes in 2021. The high winds associated with a tornado can damage buildings, or even level them. Even the lowest-ranked tornado, an EF 0 sustains winds of up to 85 mph. This can lead to broken branches and downed trees that fall onto homes, causing significant property damage.
Vandalism is another aspect of property damage law that is difficult to deal with. Whether it’s your home or business, deliberate destruction is costly. Any intentional act to destroy or damage your property is unacceptable.
- Broken windows
- Cutting down trees without permission
- Graffiti or tagging
- Mailbox or signage tampering
The Property Damage Insurance Claims Process: 5 Things To Know
Damage to your home or business is devastating. To make matters worse, many insurance companies make the property damage claims process frustrating. It seems they’ll do everything they can to avoid paying out a fair settlement. In these cases, knowledge is power. Here are 5 important things to know about how to handle property damage claims.
1. You must report the incident as soon as possible
Property damage claims generally take time. From that first call to receiving a payout, it can be weeks or even months. Nonetheless, it’s essential to get in touch with your insurance company as soon as you’ve assessed the damage. Your policy may actually provide guidance regarding how much time you have.
This first phone call doesn’t have to be lengthy. In most cases, you’ll simply provide information that helps the employee locate your policy, and answer questions about what happened. You’ll also provide details about the damage and how extensive it is. From there, the company will most likely assign an employee to your case and have that individual touch base at a later date.
As always, be open and honest about the property damage and what caused it.
2. It’s important to document everything
After you’ve contacted your insurance company, take photos and thoroughly document the damage. Be sure to get clear photos from different angles. A video is also helpful in certain situations. Keep a log of the property damage, how it appears, and how it changes (if at all) as the days go on.
If you’re reading this before you’re in the midst of property damage claims, it’s a good time to do a value assessment of your home. If you’ve recently invested in a renovation or have acquired high-value items since you first purchased insurance, be sure to update your policy. This will help you secure the compensation you need in the event of a disaster.
3. Your adjuster is an important piece of the puzzle
Once you’ve filed a claim, an insurance adjuster will be assigned to your case. This individual likely has experience assessing many different types of property damage claims, including ones similar to yours. This person will investigate the damage, negotiate the coverage you receive, and hopefully resolve the claim.
While adjusters are sympathetic to what you’re going through, it’s important to remember that they work for your insurance company. Try to foster a cordial relationship with this person. Do your best to remain professional and courteous, even when you disagree with certain conclusions.
As always, dealing with adjusters and other insurance representatives can be draining. This is why it’s ideal to have a property damage lawyer in your corner.
4. Major local disasters may result in a different process
When a major disaster hits an entire geographical region, the process of securing insurance money can be different.
For one, there may be public adjusters offering to assess your property damage. These individuals work for policyholders, rather than insurance companies. However, it’s important to know that there are fees associated with using a public adjuster.
Further, in the event that your damages exceed the amount of coverage you receive, federal agencies may provide grants or low-interest loans. These are designed to aid in recovery efforts after a major disaster.
Again, a skilled property damage attorney is your best bet for navigating after a major local disaster.
5. An experienced property damage attorney can help
Property damage claims should be simple and straightforward. You pay your insurance premium with the expectation that your insurance company will cover costs when you need it the most. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. After decades of experience navigating property damage law, we’ve been disappointed to see many insurance companies act in bad faith.
Hiring a property damage attorney is beneficial for many reasons. Consider the following:
- Your attorney will handle all communication with the insurance company, which means you won’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing.
- A lawyer may enlist experts from a range of different industries to build a strong case regarding your losses.
In the event that negotiations aren’t successful, your lawyer can represent you in court with full knowledge of prior events and correspondence.
Huber Thomas Law: Your Property Damage Attorneys
At Huber Thomas Law, we believe in holding insurance providers accountable. We will thoroughly review your property damage claims, pinpointing exactly what you’re entitled to. We lean on guidance from the attorneys within our own team, as well as the expertise of property damage inspectors. This approach allows us to build a winning case that will help us secure the money you need to repair or replace your property.
Our courtroom success stories
The team at Huber Thomas Law has decades of combined experience in the courtroom. We are diligent and unrelenting when it comes to pursuing fair settlements for our clients. Simply put, our previous case victories speak for themselves. Highlights related to property damage law include:
- $26.2 million settlement for owners of a Louisiana high-rise office building that suffered extensive hurricane damage
- $4 million in a jury verdict for a retail center owner after another Gulf South hurricane
- More than $15 million in settlements for Hurricane Laura and Delta homeowners
To read through more of our success stories in a range of different practice areas, we invite you to review our case victories.
Don’t let property damage devastate your family or business. Huber Thomas Law will serve as your tireless advocate every step of the way. We represent clients in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and across the nation. Schedule a complimentary consultation today.