Business owners and homeowners in Louisiana rely on insurance companies to handle their claims promptly and in good faith after a natural disaster like a hurricane. If a claim isn’t handled in good faith, a policyholder may need help from a Louisiana hurricane claims attorney.
Your insurance policy is a promise from your insurance company to provide you with coverage when you need it. After you buy your policy, the company has a legal duty to provide you with that coverage and to negotiate and settle, promptly and in good faith, any claims that you make.
Can Louisiana policyholders – homeowners and business owners – take any measures to avoid delays and disputes with an insurance company after a hurricane? What steps can you take if your claim is delayed or denied? How will a Metairie civil claims attorney be able to help?
If you’ll keep reading, you will learn the answers to these questions, and you’ll learn more about your rights when you are filing an insurance claim after a natural disaster. You will also learn where to obtain reliable and effective legal help if you are involved in a conflict over a claim.
What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?
You can’t purchase a homeowners insurance policy for hurricane coverage alone. Instead, a homeowners policy should cover most of the damage that a hurricane may cause. However, coverage for flood damage is not routinely included in a standard homeowners policy.
This means property owners with no flood insurance may not be fully covered for the damage a hurricane causes. Nevertheless, if your claim is delayed or denied, you should consult a reliable Louisiana hurricane claims attorney, and you should contact that attorney promptly.
If Your Insurance Claim Isn’t Properly Handled
After Hurricane Ida made landfall on August 29, it caused at least $50 billion in damages in the United States, including at least $18 billion of damages in Louisiana. Under state law, insurance companies are required to investigate and pay property damage claims fully and promptly.
The facts, however, are that too many companies reject or delay claims or simply do not pay the full claim amount to policyholders, making it difficult – and sometimes impossible – for many Louisiana families and business owners to recover and return to normal after a natural disaster.
If your Hurricane Ida-related damage claim is not being handled properly by your insurance company, immediately contact a hurricane attorney in the Metairie area and ask that attorney to discuss your rights, which may include taking legal action against the insurance company.
In Louisiana, when an insurance company fails to meet its responsibility to a policyholder, and the policyholder prevails against the company in court, the company may be ordered by the court to pay you the amount of your claim, your lawyer’s fees, and additional penalties and damages.
What Constitutes Bad Faith?
Bad faith claims arise from an insurance company’s actions or failures. If an insurance company ignores your calls, letters, or emails, makes excuses, and refuses to pay your property damage claim after a number of weeks, that company may be operating in bad faith.
Although the following list is not exhaustive, generally speaking, an insurance company may be sued for bad faith over a failure to:
- investigate your claim promptly
- negotiate with you or share key information about your claim
- explain why your claim was denied
- either pay or deny your claim within a reasonable time-frame
- pay the full value of the claim
Some insurance companies look in a policy for loopholes that will allow the company to deny a claim either partially or completely, but the courts in Louisiana have determined that coverage exclusions and limitations should be narrowly interpreted.
Nevertheless, in any particular instance, an insurance company may wrongly apply coverage exclusions or deny a legitimate damage claim, and if that claim is yours, you are going to need an attorney’s help.
What Should You Do About Bad Faith?
Many property owners who are victims of bad faith will not fight back or hire an attorney who will fight on their behalf. They simply accept whatever the insurance company tells them and offers them. Insurance companies know this and use it to their advantage after natural disasters.
Retaining a lawyer and having that lawyer write a letter to the company may by itself be enough to motivate the company to offer an acceptable settlement. An insurance company is more apt to treat you wrongly if the company believes that you will not retain an attorney.
If a letter isn’t enough, filing a lawsuit to begin the legal process may be what it takes to generate an acceptable agreement. Insurance companies usually prefer to avoid the courtroom because they may be ordered by a court to pay you additional damages beyond the amount of your claim.
Still, if the insurance company refuses to negotiate or fails to negotiate in good faith, your attorney can take your case to trial and ask a court to order the company to pay your claim.
What Steps Should You Take After a Natural Disaster?
After a hurricane or any other natural disaster, homeowners and business owners should take the following steps to reduce the possibility of a conflict with your insurance company. Taking these steps will also strengthen your case if you eventually need to sue the company for bad faith:
- Take plenty of photos of the property damage.
- Make a comprehensive list of all damaged property.
- Keep all of your invoices and receipts related to the natural disaster.
- Keep a record of every time you speak with the insurance company and what was said.
Homeowners and business owners are also obligated to mitigate any additional or continuing damage to their properties. You should not have to pay anything out-of-pocket, but you may need to take practical measures like temporarily covering a damaged roof with a tarp.
When Should You Speak to an Attorney?
After a natural disaster, contact your insurance company immediately. Making a damage claim for your home or business is the policyholder’s responsibility and no one else’s. An insurance adjuster should inspect your property as soon as possible after a natural disaster.
Louisiana has a one-year statute of limitations for legal action involving property damage claims, so if your insurance company needlessly delays, denies, or underpays your Hurricane Ida-related property damage claim, make the call to a Metairie hurricane claims attorney right away.
Your first consultation with a hurricane claims lawyer is provided at no cost and with no obligation, and you will pay no attorney’s fee unless and until your attorney prevails on your behalf.