2024 Hurricane Season Outlook

According to multiple weather tracking outlets, the 2024 hurricane season is poised to be one of the most active and dangerous on noted record. Forecasts call for even more major storm activity than in 2023, a year in which we experienced the fourth-most prolific year on record with 20 named storms:

The 2024 season begins June 1. Warm sea temperatures from last year, which drives storm formation in the tropics and elsewhere, is not expected to change. Further, a shift in the El Nino-El Nina cycle in mid-2024 is projected to open the atmosphere to more storm-susceptible conditions.

Chances are high that Floridians will once again face a major hurricane hitting a densely populated area, particularly as our state’s growth continues and the influx of new residents into the Sunshine State has not cooled down.

With that in mind, here are 5 things to do should you own property that is insured and suffers damage in a major weather event like a hurricane, tropical storm, tropical depression, or tornado:

  1. Photograph everything after the loss. This primarily requires photographing damaged property (ceilings, windows, doors, floors, roofs, etc.) but also the areas surrounding your property that may demonstrate the force of weather experienced in your area, even up to a mile away (downed trees or powerlines, flooded waterways or roadways, debris from other buildings, etc.).
  2. Take immediate measures to prevent the damage from getting worse, BUT be smart about who you hire and how much they charge you. After a major hurricane, expect to have offers to help you free of charge from companies that will bill your insurance company for their work. Make sure you ask for a written estimate of the charges and ensure the prices are fair for the work performed. The cost of their work could eat into your collection at the end of your claim. Do not sign a contract for work that is only to be performed if payment is approved by your insurance company, as it could diminish your contractual rights. You can always pay for contractor services after your claim is paid, or you could submit bills for proposed work to your home and by Florida law your insurance company is required to pay them as if they were actually incurred, assuming the repairs themselves are covered by your insurance policy.As with any industry, unscrupulous individuals will be looming and looking to prey on the innocent victims of a catastrophe. I highly recommend you consult with a lawyer before signing any paperwork with a company after a major weather event, particularly if your claim is one of a very serious nature. Some contracts are irreversible and will have dramatic consequences on your potential insurance claim, including overbilling, billing for work not performed, stealing all or some of your rights to your claim, or promising to work with your insurance company but failing to ever do so.
  3. Keep all records. Major damage to a residence or building coupled with an insurance claim will produce a lot of paperwork – repair proposals, receipts, inspection reports, letters from your insurer, notes, etc. Do not discard any of this. The more paperwork you can keep, the better a lawyer or other professional can assist you with your losses in the event you need professional help.
  4. Comply with your obligations and your insurer’s reasonable requests – do not wait to report the claim! You have an affirmative duty in your insurance policy to comply with reasonable requests and to report the claim as soon as it is practicable. With respect to notifying your insurance company of a loss, Florida law often holds property owners to the standard of reporting as soon as it appears reasonable that an insurance claim could be opened. In other words, when it appears insurance coverage is available, the claim must be immediately reported so the insurer has an opportunity to investigate it as close in time to the loss event as possible. Delaying this step can jeopardize the entire claim, as can delaying your response to requests for information.
  5. Do not let your insurance company carry on with treating you unfairly. Your insurance company is bound by Florida law to deliver a written claim decision to you within 60 days of your reporting of the claim. They are also required to provide you an explanation if any portion of your claim is denied and a line item repair estimate for any aspect of your claim that is covered. Most importantly, your insurance company is supposed to put your interests before theirs. If you believe your insurance company runs afoul even slightly, do not try to fix the problem yourself. Every word you say or paper you deliver to your insurance company will be recorded and saved and can be used against you, and every day counts. Consult with a professional immediately.

If you have any questions either before or after a hurricane, our office is happy to speak with you.

Edward G. Jimenez, Esq.