The Short-Term and Long-Term Impacts of Hurricane Damage

Sunday, June 16th, 2024

Hurricanes are destructive storms that can wreak havoc on communities in their path. The heavy rain, storm surges, high wind, and flooding can have both immediate and lingering consequences for those affected. Understanding the short-term and long-term impacts of hurricane damage can help you recover and rebuild after a storm.

Short-Term Impacts

Loss of Power and Utilities

One of the most immediate effects of a hurricane is loss of power and utilities like water and sewage systems. High winds can down power lines and flooding can damage infrastructure. This leaves many without electricity, drinking water, or working toilets in the aftermath. Temporary loss of communication networks can also occur, making it hard to call for help or check on loved ones.

Unsafe Structures and Debris

Hurricanes can damage or destroy buildings and infrastructure. Storm debris like fallen trees, ripped off roofing and siding, and broken glass are common. Structures may be unstable or completely leveled after high winds and water damage. This creates hazardous conditions for residents as well as first responders coming to provide aid after the storm.

Supply Chain Disruptions

Hurricanes often disrupt supply chains and access to necessities. Stores may be damaged, closed, or unable to restock. Blocked roads and impaired transportation systems can delay shipments of food, gasoline, and medical supplies. This lack of essential goods and services impacts recovery timelines and public health and safety.

Displacement and Housing Issues

Extensive property damage often displaces residents whose homes are uninhabitable after a hurricane. Finding temporary shelter can be challenging, especially if hotels and public facilities are also affected. Renters may struggle to find replacement housing in the aftermath as vacancy rates drop due to high demand. Housing repairs may lag depending on available contractors and building materials.

Long-Term Impacts

Rebuilding Costs and Labor Shortages

The long process of rebuilding homes, businesses, and infrastructure after hurricane damage can drag on for months or years. Construction labor shortages may occur if the storm impacted a wide area, as crews get booked up with reconstruction projects. Scarcity of resources like lumber can also increase building costs. All of this can slow and frustrate recovery plans.

Insurance Claim Delays and Underpayments

Navigating home and business insurance policies after hurricane damage takes persistence and meticulous documentation. Insurers may delay processing claims due to high volume. They may also underpay policyholders by not fully covering all qualified losses and repair costs. Long battles to get fair claim settlements can prolong recovery.

Mental Health Impacts

Coping with the trauma of surviving a hurricane, displacement, and rebuilding can take a toll on mental health. Stress, anxiety, and depression are common in the months after a major storm. The loss of loved ones and pets can also lead to grief responses. Counseling and mental health treatment may be necessary for some hurricane victims.

Economic Decline and Population Changes

A hurricane can depress economic activity in the impacted area if tourism, spending, and investment drop. Some residents and businesses may relocate rather than rebuild. This economic decline can result in lower property values and tax revenues, negatively affecting local government budgets. It may take years for the economy to bounce back.

Environmental Effects

Hurricanes can reshape natural habitats through powerful storm surges, erosion, and saltwater intrusion. Wetlands, beaches, and barrier islands may suffer long-term changes. Pollution resulting from damage to chemical plants, sewage systems, and hazardous waste sites can contaminate soil and water. Restoring affected ecosystems and habitats takes significant time and resources.

Hurricanes have both immediate and lasting impacts on communities in their path. Understanding the common short and long-term consequences is key to navigating the recovery process after a major storm. With preparation, resilience, and resources, communities can rebuild and heal after these devastating natural disasters. 

Contact our storm damage lawyers if you need assistance with an insurance claim after hurricane damage to your property. Our attorneys have the experience to help maximize your claim settlement.

Visit our office at 200 Lake Morton Drive, Suite 300, Lakeland, FL 33801.

Or call us today for a free consultation on (833) 941-7867.

Hurricane Deductibles Explained: How They Affect Your Insurance Claim

Thursday, May 30th, 2024

A hurricane deductible is an increased deductible that homeowners in hurricane-prone areas must pay before their insurance policy kicks in to cover a claim following a hurricane or major tropical storm.

Unlike a standard deductible, which is usually a set amount like $500 or $1000, a hurricane deductible is calculated as a percentage of the home’s insured value. Common hurricane deductible percentages range from 1% to 5%.

For example, if a home is insured for $300,000 and has a 2% hurricane deductible, the homeowners would be responsible for the first $6,000 of damage costs before insurance coverage begins. With a standard $1000 deductible, the homeowners would only pay the first $1000.

When Does a Hurricane Deductible Apply?

Insurance companies enact hurricane deductibles when the National Hurricane Center officially names a storm system. The higher deductible remains in place during the storm and for a certain period afterwards, usually 24 to 48 hours.

This means the hurricane deductible applies even if the storm is downgraded to a tropical storm or depression before it hits your area. The criteria is based on the storm’s status when it formed.

How are Hurricane Deductibles Determined?

In Florida, the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation sets the criteria for when insurers can implement hurricane deductibles. Most companies apply them if any part of the state receives a hurricane warning from the National Hurricane Center.

Insurers then set their own hurricane deductible percentages, usually between 1-5% of the home’s insured value. Older homes or those in high-risk coastal areas often get hit with the maximum 5% hurricane deductible.

Newer inland homes may have lower hurricane deductibles around 1-2%. The percentage should be clearly labeled on your policy declarations page.

How Do Hurricane Deductibles Impact Claim Payouts?

Hurricane deductibles can dramatically reduce the insurance coverage you receive following a major storm.

For example:

  • Home insured for $300,000
  • 2% hurricane deductible = $6,000
  • Total storm damage = $50,000

With a standard $1000 deductible, the insurance company would cover $49,000 of damages. But with the 2% hurricane deductible, the homeowners must pay the first $6,000 out of pocket and only receive $44,000 from insurance.

In severe storms that cause extensive damage, some homeowners may not even meet their hurricane deductible if the damages exceed the total insured value of their home.

Strategies for Coping with High Hurricane Deductibles

Here are some tips to deal with costly hurricane deductibles in the aftermath of a storm:

  • Carefully document all damages, take photos, and keep receipts. Get multiple repair estimates.
  • Ask about any hurricane loss mitigation discounts your insurer offers for storm-resistant features like wind-impact windows.
  • Consider increasing your deductible in non-hurricane months to offset the higher hurricane deductible.
  • Set aside funds in an emergency savings account in case you need to pay the hurricane deductible.
  • Contact your insurance agent right away to start your claim and understand the deductible that will apply.

Fight Back Against Unreasonable Deductibles

If your insurance company applies an unusually high hurricane deductible percentage or refuses to fully cover your legitimate storm damages, don’t put up with it. Contact our experienced Florida insurance claims attorneys who can determine if the insurer is acting in bad faith and fight to get you the maximum compensation allowed under your policy.

Don’t let unreasonable hurricane deductibles prevent you from recovering from a devastating storm. Get expert legal help reviewing your insurance policy and claims payout. Contact our dedicated team today for a free case review.

You can visit our office at 200 Lake Morton Drive, Suite 300, Lakeland, FL 33801.

Or call us today for a free consultation on (833) 941-7867.

High Waters and High Costs: The Economics of Flood Damage from Hurricanes

Wednesday, May 15th, 2024

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 each year, with the peak months being August and September. These massive storms can unleash high winds, torrential rains, and storm surges that cause widespread destruction to coastal communities. Flooding from hurricanes poses a major economic threat, resulting in property damage, loss of business revenue, and strains on infrastructure. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the financial toll of flood damage from hurricanes.

Direct Property Damage

The most visible economic impact from hurricane flooding is the physical destruction it causes to homes, businesses, and infrastructure. According to the National Hurricane Center, storm surge and inland flooding account for over 50% of hurricane-related deaths and are responsible for a majority of hurricane damage costs.

Floodwaters can completely destroy buildings, warp structures, cause foundation cracks, contaminate interior spaces with water and debris, and ruin inventory and equipment. The damage is highly dependent on flood depth, velocity, and duration. Homes flooded with over 4 feet of water often require complete reconstruction down to the foundation and frame. Even an inch of water can cause tens of thousands of dollars in repairs and replacements of flooring, drywall, insulation, doors, cabinets, and more.

Rebuilding destroyed properties and repairing damaged buildings represents a significant expense for homeowners, businesses, and communities. The costs include materials, labor, permitting, demolition, mold remediation, floodproofing upgrades, landscape repairs, personal property losses, alternative living expenses during repairs, and much more.

Many homeowners face financial ruin after a major flood if they lack sufficient insurance, savings, or disaster aid to cover the repairs. Businesses also frequently tap lines of credit or retirement accounts to fund rebuilding. The capital spent on reconstruction diverts money away from new investments and growth.

Business Interruptions

Beyond direct property loss, hurricanes also cause major business interruptions. Necessary evacuations, flooded buildings, loss of utilities, and damaged inventory can shut down operations completely. Many businesses lack the cash reserves to withstand extended disruptions.

The hospitality industry takes an especially hard hit from decreased tourism and event cancellations during and after a hurricane. Hotels, restaurants, attractions, airports, cruise lines, and related businesses suffer steep revenue declines right when they need income the most to recoup storm losses. Retail, manufacturing, port operations, agriculture, and other sectors also face productivity losses and supply chain disruptions.

Business interruption insurance can help compensate companies for lost income and extra expenses incurred. But the claims process can be lengthy, and losses like market share declines often fall outside of coverage. Some insurers fight aggressively to minimize payouts. Ultimately, many businesses never reopen after a major hurricane, resulting in permanent job losses and a less vibrant local economy.

Infrastructure Damage

Flooding impairs critical infrastructure like roads, bridges, railroads, airports, seaports, marinas, pipelines, dams, levees, wastewater treatment plants, and power stations. The closure or limited operation of these vital services magnifies business interruptions across the entire local economy.

Repairing damaged infrastructure is extremely expensive given the scale and complexity of most systems. For example, some estimates put the total infrastructure damage in Florida from Hurricane Irma in 2017 at $50 billion. Government agencies must either divert funds from other budget items or take on debt to pay for repairs. That trade-off limits investments in new infrastructure to support growth.

Post-hurricane infrastructure projects also often get bogged down in delays from permitting, environmental reviews, litigation over contracts, and shortages of qualified labor. All the while, the unrepaired infrastructure causes ongoing economic disruptions. For instance, damaged ports force cargo rerouting, hurting international trade.

Loss of Tax Revenues

Hurricanes also shrink tax revenues due to reduced business activity and lower property values. Sales tax collections decrease with less discretionary spending by consumers and businesses. Tourism declines mean lower hotel occupancy and rental car taxes. Local gas taxes fall as people drive less.

Flood damage can prompt property tax reassessments and lower appraisals, shrinking this critical revenue source. Depressed home sales prices and stalled construction also drag down property tax growth. Some jurisdictions allow property tax exemptions for storm repairs.

These revenue losses come at the same time that hurricane response and rebuilding efforts swell government expenditures. Debris removal, infrastructure repairs, overtime pay for first responders, and shelters/temporary housing are just some of the extra public costs.

Consequently, state and local budgets get squeezed in the aftermath of a major hurricane. To prevent deep cuts to public services, tax hikes may be necessary to cover the budget gaps. But increasing tax rates can hamper economic competitiveness and growth.

Cascading Economic Impacts

The combined economic effects of physical destruction, disrupted business operations, stressed government budgets, and depleted household balance sheets reverberate across communities. Loss of jobs and wages reduces spending at local businesses. Home values and credit ratings fall. Insurers drop policies or hike rates.

Declining tax revenues lead to curtailed public services, deteriorating infrastructure, and higher local taxes. Construction labor shortages delay rebuilding. Investors and developers turn cautious, stifling growth.

These cascading impacts can slow broader economic growth and development for a decade or longer after a destructive hurricane. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans saw a major exodus of residents, capital, and investment that took years to reverse. Similar long-term ripples occur in most communities impacted by major hurricanes.

The Rising Costs of Hurricanes

As climate change fuels rising seas and more intense coastal storms, the financial costs inflicted by hurricane flooding will continue to grow. Urbanization of coastal areas is also expanding the amount of property at risk.  

The cost-benefit analysis makes clear that investing in resilient buildings, infrastructure, smarter development patterns, and natural buffers like wetlands now can help guard against astronomical flood damages down the road. Pursuing sustainability and adaptation strategies reduces vulnerability to the economic risks of inevitable future hurricanes.

Preparing for hurricanes just makes economic sense. But when a big storm does strike, our experienced legal team can help you recoup losses. If your property has been damaged by a hurricane and your insurance company refuses to pay, contact us today to discuss your options. With proper representation, you can avoid financial ruin and rebuild stronger for the future.

Visit our office at 200 Lake Morton Drive, Suite 300, Lakeland, FL 33801.

Or call us today for a free consultation on (833) 941-7867.

Assessing the Aftermath: Quantifying Hurricane Damage to Residential Structures

Tuesday, May 7th, 2024

Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to residential areas, leaving homes and communities in ruins. Assessing the extent of damage after a hurricane is crucial for recovery efforts. Quantifying hurricane destruction enables prioritization of rebuilding projects, estimation of costs, and application for disaster aid. This article examines methods for evaluating residential hurricane damage.

Visual Inspections

Initial damage assessments begin with on-the-ground visual inspections. Groups of building inspectors, engineers, and contractors systematically survey affected neighborhoods. They categorize each home on a damage scale from unaffected to totally destroyed. Visual inspections provide a rapid overall picture of community impact. However, they lack quantitative precision in estimating rebuilding costs. Visual assessments are supplemented with more detailed property evaluations.

Detailed Property Evaluations

Individual homes undergo comprehensive reviews to quantify hurricane damage. Engineers and claims adjusters inspect foundations, roofs, windows, doors, exterior finishes, interior rooms, and systems like HVAC and plumbing. Damage is documented through notes, photos, and videos. Evaluators determine repair needs and estimate material and labor costs for each component. Sophisticated software tools model buildings in 3D to calculate destruction. Detailed property evaluations provide accurate damage quantification but require more time and personnel.

Geospatial Analysis

Geospatial analysis using aerial imagery enhances damage assessment accuracy. Satellite photos and drone flyovers taken before and after a hurricane reveal impact geography. Comparing pre- and post-event images highlights changes like missing rooftops, debris piles, and flooding. Geospatial analysis scales beyond visual surveys to rapidly assess wide areas. However, it lacks inspection nuance in distinguishing between minor and severe damage. Multispectral analysis using infrared bands can partly overcome this limitation.

Integrated Assessment Approach

The most effective damage quantification combines multiple assessment techniques. Initial visual surveys rapidly identify the hardest hit areas. Detailed property evaluations provide accurate cost estimates for individual homes. Geospatial analysis fills the gaps between inspected structures. Integrated damage quantification directs resources toward the greatest needs for rebuilding homes and rehabilitating neighborhoods after hurricanes. Though it is time- and resource-intensive, rigorous assessment is necessary to support long-term disaster recovery.

Additional Challenges

Several additional factors complicate quantifying hurricane damage. Assessment is more difficult with extremely severe destruction that obliterates structures. Debris like downed trees and flooding must also be accounted for. The lack of pre-storm data makes comparing before and after tricky. Remote areas may receive less inspection due to access difficulties. Assessors require security in neighborhoods with post-disaster instability. Cultural and policy factors also influence damage interpretation and aid allocation based on assessments.

Assessing hurricane damage to residential buildings is vital but challenging. A multimodal approach using visual inspection, property evaluation, and geospatial analysis offers comprehensive quantification to guide rehabilitation. Methodical damage assessment facilitates obtaining recovery funding, prioritizing repairs, and rebuilding safer storm-resistant communities. Rigorous assessment accounting for on-the-ground realities can support equitable disaster recovery.

Filing Insurance Claims

Before rebuilding can begin, homeowners must file claims with insurers to recover repair and replacement costs. Policies may cover wind, flood, and other hurricane losses minus deductibles. Homeowners supply documentation including proof of residence, photos/video of damage, contractor repair estimates, and claims from previous storms. Insurers send adjusters to verify and quantify destruction. They determine covered losses and policy limits. For extensive damage, additional structural engineering inspections may be required. Processing claims can take weeks after hurricanes when demand soars.

Working with us can help expedite your insurance claim after a hurricane.

Visit our office at 200 Lake Morton Drive, Suite 300, Lakeland, FL 33801.

Call us today for a free consultation on (833) 941-7867.

Preparing for Hurricane Season: Tips to Minimize Storm Damage

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024

As hurricane season approaches, it’s crucial for homeowners to take proactive steps to protect their property and minimize potential storm damage. By implementing the following tips, you can safeguard your home and increase your chances of a smooth recovery in the event of a hurricane.

Create a Hurricane Preparedness Plan

  • Develop a family communication plan, including emergency contacts and meeting places
  • Identify the nearest hurricane shelter and evacuation routes
  • Stock up on essential supplies, such as non-perishable food, water, batteries, and first-aid kits
  • Keep important documents, such as insurance policies and identification, in a waterproof and portable container
  • Plan for pet safety, including securing necessary supplies and identifying pet-friendly shelters
  • Assign roles and responsibilities to family members to ensure everyone is prepared and knows what to do in an emergency

Protect Your Home’s Exterior

Secure Windows and Doors

  • Install storm shutters or impact-resistant windows to protect against high winds and flying debris
  • Reinforce garage doors with hurricane panels or bracing kits
  • Use weatherstripping and caulk to seal gaps and cracks around windows and doors
  • Consider installing reinforced entry doors to provide additional protection against strong winds

Maintain Your Landscaping

  • Trim trees and shrubs to reduce the risk of falling branches
  • Remove dead or dying trees that could pose a threat to your home
  • Secure outdoor furniture, decorations, and loose objects that could become projectiles in high winds
  • Clean up yard debris and dispose of it properly to prevent it from becoming hazardous during a storm
  • Ensure proper drainage in your yard to minimize the risk of flooding and erosion

Inspect and Fortify Your Roof

  • Have a professional assess your roof’s condition and make necessary repairs
  • Consider installing hurricane straps or clips to strengthen the connection between your roof and walls
  • Clear gutters and downspouts to ensure proper water drainage
  • Install roof underlayment or secondary water barriers for added protection against leaks
  • Secure loose shingles or tiles to prevent them from being torn off during high winds

Safeguard Your Home’s Interior

Prepare for Power Outages

  • Invest in a portable generator and learn how to use it safely
  • Keep flashlights, batteries, and a battery-powered radio on hand
  • Consider installing a backup battery system for essential appliances, such as refrigerators and medical equipment
  • Charge electronic devices and have extra battery packs available
  • Stock up on non-perishable food and bottled water in case of extended power outages

Protect Valuable Items

  • Move valuable items, such as electronics and artwork, to higher ground or a waterproof safe
  • Digitize important documents and store copies in a secure, off-site location
  • Consider purchasing flood insurance to protect your belongings from water damage
  • Take an inventory of your possessions, including photos and serial numbers, for insurance purposes
  • Pack a “go bag” with essential items, such as clothing and medications, in case you need to evacuate quickly
  • Create a hurricane kit containing a manual can opener, a whistle to call for help, and a fire extinguisher
  • Make sure you have cash at hand – during bad storms, power outages may limit access to ATMs and credit card machines.

Prepare for Flooding

  • Install check valves in plumbing to prevent sewage backups
  • Elevate appliances, such as water heaters and air conditioning units, above potential flood levels
  • Keep sandbags or alternative flood barriers on hand to divert water away from your home
  • Consider installing a sump pump with a backup power source to remove excess water
  • Familiarize yourself with your community’s flood evacuation routes and emergency procedures

Stay Informed and Connected

  • Monitor local news and weather reports for updates on the hurricane’s path and intensity
  • Sign up for emergency alerts from your local government or weather service such as the National Hurricane Center
  • Follow instructions from local authorities regarding evacuation orders or other safety measures
  • Keep a list of important contacts, including family members, friends, and local emergency services. Ask them to keep copies of important documentation if required
  • Establish a communication plan with out-of-area contacts who can relay messages if local lines are down
  • Stay connected with neighbors and community members to share resources and support one another

Review Your Insurance Coverage

  • Understand your insurance policy’s coverage for hurricane damage, including deductibles and limitations
  • Document your home’s condition and contents before the storm hits, using photos and videos
  • Keep records of any repairs or improvements made to your home
  • If your home sustains damage, contact your insurance company promptly to file a claim
  • Be prepared to provide evidence of damage and keep detailed records of all communication with your insurance company
  • Consider hiring an attorney to help you navigate the claims process and ensure you receive a fair settlement

In the aftermath of a hurricane, navigating insurance claims can be a daunting task. If you find yourself in a dispute with your insurance company over the extent of your coverage or the amount of your payout, it’s essential to seek experienced legal representation. Our law firm specializes in advocating for homeowners and negotiating with insurance companies to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. We understand the complexities of insurance policies and can help you fight for your rights as a policyholder.

Our team of skilled attorneys has a proven track record of success in handling hurricane damage claims. We work tirelessly to gather evidence, assess the extent of your losses, and negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf. With our expertise and dedication, you can focus on rebuilding your life while we handle the legal aspects of your claim.

Don’t let insurance companies take advantage of you during this challenging time. Contact us for more information on how we can help you recover from hurricane damage and protect your rights as a policyholder. Our compassionate and knowledgeable staff is here to guide you through every step of the process and ensure that you receive the maximum compensation available under your policy.

You can visit our office at 200 Lake Morton Drive, Suite 300, Lakeland, FL 33801.

Or call us today for a free consultation on (833) 941-7867.