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.

Filing a Claim After a Storm: What to Do When Your Home is Damaged

Thursday, March 21st, 2024

No one wants to deal with the aftermath of a major storm, but unfortunately, it’s a reality many homeowners face. Whether it’s damage from high winds, heavy rain, hail, or a combination, the process of filing an insurance claim can be daunting. However, taking the right steps can help ensure you get the coverage you’re entitled to and get your home repaired as quickly as possible.

Here’s what to do when your home is damaged by a storm.

Document the Damage

The first and most important step is to thoroughly document all the damage to your home. This means taking detailed photos and videos, making notes about the extent and location of the damage, and keeping any receipts for emergency repairs or other expenses. The more comprehensive your documentation, the stronger your insurance claim will be.

It’s also a good idea to make a list of all damaged or destroyed items, including their age, purchase price, and estimated replacement cost. This will come in handy when you’re filing your claim.

Contact Your Insurance Provider

As soon as it’s safe to do so, contact your insurance company to report the damage and file a claim. Most providers have 24/7 hotlines or online reporting tools to make this process as easy as possible.

Start Emergency Repairs

In many cases, you’ll need to take immediate action to prevent further damage to your home. This could mean tarping a damaged roof, boarding up broken windows, or removing water from flooded areas.

Keep all receipts for the materials and labor used for these emergency repairs, as your insurance provider may reimburse you for those costs. Just be sure to get approval from your insurer before undertaking any major work.

Work with Your Adjuster

Once you’ve filed your claim, an insurance adjuster will be assigned to your case. They will inspect the damage to your home and provide an estimate of the repair costs.

When the adjuster arrives, have all your documentation ready. Walk them through the damage, point out any areas of concern, and provide your own estimate of the costs involved. The more information you can provide, the better.

If you disagree with the adjuster’s findings, don’t be afraid to negotiate or request a second inspection. Your insurance policy entitles you to a fair settlement, so stand your ground if you feel the initial offer is insufficient. Our team is here to help you resolve any claim issues.

Be Patient and Persistent

Filing an insurance claim after a major storm can be a lengthy and frustrating process. There may be delays, bureaucratic hurdles, and unexpected complications along the way. The key is to stay patient, persistent, and meticulous in your documentation.

Don’t hesitate to follow up with your insurance provider, request status updates, and push for a timely resolution. The more proactive you are, the better your chances of getting the coverage you deserve and restoring your home to its pre-storm condition.

Do you need help filing a property loss claim after a storm? Visit our office at the following address.

200 Lake Morton Drive, Suite 300, Lakeland, FL 33801.

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

The Financial and Emotional Toll of Rebuilding After a Hurricane

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024

Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage, leaving many without a home or possessions. The process of rebuilding is often long, and difficult, and takes a huge emotional and financial toll on those affected. This article will examine some of the key challenges faced when rebuilding after a hurricane.

Assessing the Damage

After a hurricane passes, the first challenge is assessing the extent of the damage. Homes may be partially or completely destroyed by high winds and flooding. Roofs may be torn off, windows shattered, and walls collapsed. Belongings are likely ruined by flood waters that fill homes with contaminated water full of debris. Furniture, appliances, clothes, family heirlooms, and more are often unsalvageable after sitting in foul flood waters. Vehicles parked in garages also often sustain damage from water and debris.

Initial insurance claims must be filed quickly, even if the full scope of damage is not yet known. Homeowners face the daunting task of painstakingly cataloging every damaged or destroyed item in their home, often without having any receipts or proof of ownership left. Pictures and whatever receipts they can gather help document destroyed possessions and property.

Finding Temporary Housing

Most hurricane victims are displaced from their homes for many months or even over a year while rebuilding takes place. Finding temporary housing options is difficult when entire communities are displaced all at once. Living cramped in a small rental apartment or hotel room is extremely difficult, especially for large families. The process of securing short-term housing, navigating insurance claims, finding reputable contractors, and starting repairs can be enormously frustrating.

Dealing with Insurance

Navigating the intricacies of complex insurance claims is often complicated and confusing after major hurricane damage. There are often delays in getting settlements as insurance companies are inundated with claims in the aftermath of widespread destruction. Homeowners need to carefully read policies, document every item lost, get multiple repair estimates, and provide endless paperwork to insurance providers. Additional living expense (ALE) coverage is supposed to pay for temporary housing, but reimbursement is often slow and inadequate. Fighting with insurance providers over proper settlements adds more stress during an already traumatic situation.

Finding Contractors for Repairs

With massive destruction to entire communities, there is huge demand and a limited supply of reputable, affordable contractors to repair and rebuild damaged homes. Even when insured for losses, finding a general contractor to manage the rebuilding process can take months. Subcontractors like electricians, plumbers, and roofers are often overloaded with work and in short supply after disasters. Homeowners may need to vet dozens of contractors before finding one able to take on their project at a fair price. This leads to delays of months or longer before rebuilding work can even start. There are also risks of being defrauded by unscrupulous contractors looking to make a quick buck off of vulnerable disaster victims. Even when an honest contractor is found, the quality of work may suffer when demand exceeds supply.

Paying for Repairs

Even with insurance settlements, homeowners often incur very high out-of-pocket costs to fully repair hurricane damage. Insurance deductibles easily run into the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, and temporary housing costs add up quickly. Property damage often exceeds coverage maximums after a major disaster. Many families are forced to dig into savings and take out home equity loans or personal loans to cover the shortfall in rebuilding costs not fully compensated by insurance. The financial costs of repairs combined with the emotional toll of replacing all lost belongings are often crushing.

Rebuilding Takes Time

It typically takes a minimum of 6-12 months, if not years, for homes to be fully rebuilt and repaired after major hurricane destruction. Living displaced in cramped temporary accommodations, often far from jobs, schools, friends, and family, adds major stress and disruption. The many delays and frustrations with securing housing, fighting with insurance, finding contractors, and waiting months for work to start cause some to give up on rebuilding because it is just too hard. This prolonged displacement greatly affects employment, finances, mental health, family relationships, and education. Rebuilding after a disaster truly tests one’s endurance and perseverance.

Coping with Trauma

The trauma of surviving a life-threatening hurricane and losing one’s home and belongings can cause severe and lasting psychological effects. Anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and PTSD are unfortunately very common after living through the horrors of a hurricane and its aftermath. The long, drawn-out stress of rebuilding takes a major toll both mentally and emotionally. Counseling is often needed to help process grief over lost loved ones and possessions and to cope with the trauma of surviving a disaster. The sense of safety and security in one’s home is often lost after surviving hurricane destruction. Nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance, and uncontrollable anxiety are real possibilities for years after rebuilding.

Strain on Relationships

The numerous pressures, frustrations, grief, and trauma caused by rebuilding a life after hurricane destruction often severely strain personal relationships with spouses and loved ones. Displacement from homes, schools, and jobs puts people in an abnormal situation. Financial stress over making ends meet after a disaster causes strife. Grief and trauma can cause mental health issues that affect relationships. The strain of living in temporary lodging can be challenging. Major life decisions about rebuilding and relocating after a disaster often cause couples or families to clash and argue. Unfortunately, research shows rates of divorce, domestic violence, and child abuse increase significantly after major disasters such as hurricanes. The accumulated stress and challenges of rebuilding clearly damage close relationships.

Loss of Community

The community connections and support systems people relied on before the hurricane disaster are suddenly disrupted and lost. Friends, neighbors, and colleagues are forced to relocate to various temporary lodgings, often in different towns or even states. Favorite community places like libraries, churches, schools, and parks may be damaged or closed indefinitely. The shared experience of surviving disaster does create camaraderie and bonding between those rebuilding. But the normal web of community interactions that provide a sense of belonging, connection, and support is inevitably damaged and lost amidst the upheaval of rebuilding somewhere new. Reestablishing these critical community bonds and supports takes a great deal of time and effort.

Reconstructing a home, community, livelihood, and sense of security after surviving a catastrophic hurricane presents ongoing challenges for months or years. Insurance battles, displacement, shortage of affordable contractors, financial stress, trauma, strained relationships, and loss of community all commonly occur. Some days, the emotional and financial toll of rebuilding can seem endless. But the human spirit is remarkably resilient.

If you need legal help dealing with home insurers or contractors, please contact our law firm today. We’re here to help you receive fair compensation and pursue the resources you need to recover and rebuild your life after a hurricane disaster.

You can visit our office at 200 Lake Morton Drive, Suite 300, Lakeland, FL 33801 or call for a free consultation on (833) 941-7867.

Storm Surge and the Structurally Unsound: Impacts of Hurricane Flooding on Houses

Friday, February 2nd, 2024

Hurricane storm surge poses a major threat to coastal communities. As hurricanes make landfall, they push a wall of ocean water ashore with tremendous force. This storm surge can cause extreme flooding, especially in low-lying areas, with water levels reaching as high as 20 feet or more above ground level. The effects of this flooding on houses can be severe, even catastrophic. From foundation damage to total destruction, storm surge flooding impacts the structural integrity of homes in multiple ways. Understanding these impacts is key for homeowners in hurricane-prone regions.

Storm Surge Height and Destructive Power

The height of storm surge is a major determinant of its destructive capacity. Higher storm surge equals more intense flooding, with faster moving and higher volume water. This tremendous hydraulic force presses against the exterior walls of homes with incredible pressure. Six feet of surge flooding can demolish large sections of standard wood-framed house walls. Eight feet of rise or more leaves little standing but a home’s core and roof structure.

Even houses reinforced to withstand hurricane-force winds can fail under the intense lateral pushing water load of a tall surge. Two-story homes are especially vulnerable, as the first level floods while upper levels catch wind, leading to buckling or collapse. The more intense the surge height and flooding, the greater the probability of major home structural damage. Surge levels over 10 feet almost guarantee massive failures in all but the most robustly engineered coastal dwellings.

Soaking, Erosion and Foundation Damage

Even if they are not outright destroyed by storm surge, houses can suffer crippling impacts to their structural soundness. The floodwaters themselves cause damage, as prolonged soaking deteriorates building materials, warps support beams, and erodes foundations over time. Additionally, fast flowing surge water essentially batters the substructure of flooded homes for hours or days, scouring away supporting soils and rocks.

Undermined foundations crack, shift and sink unevenly, profoundly compromising the integrity of the overall structure. Concrete or masonry walls develop gaps and fissures as they settle while upper levels remain stationary, straining connections to joists and rafters. Any house left standing after lengthy major surge flooding likely has serious structural issues. Post-flood inspections invariably reveal alarming cracks, separations, and misalignments caused by uneven sinking and soil erosion. These undermine the load-bearing capacity the home requires to be considered structurally sound.

Mold and Rot: Pervasive Secondary Impacts

Even after surge waters recede, the problems compound for flooded homes. Waterlogged materials allow for rampant mold growth inside walls, floors, and furnishings. Wet wood beams, internal supports and external sheathings also rot progressively. Unchecked mold infestations create respiratory health hazards for occupants while advancing rot silently destabilizes framing elements. This pervasive moisture damage and material decomposition behind the scenes further undermines the overall structural stability of surge-flooded homes. On the surface, houses may appear largely intact at first. But on the inside, they continue to weaken bit by bit through these secondary moisture impacts in the weeks and months after the storm. By the time an owner discovers a buckling floor or wall, the unseen decay and mold growth have often already structurally doomed the dwelling.

Is it Worth Trying to Save Them?

For homeowners saddled with a surge-flooded house, a difficult question arises: is saving the home even worth the cost and effort? Foundation repairs, mold remediation, beam replacement and soil stabilization can run into the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars – exceeding many homes’ pre-flood market values. Local building codes may require lengthy permitting processes or trigger improved codes during repairs, driving costs even higher still.

Delays also allow ongoing deterioration as owners wait on contractors, financing, permitting, and inspections. Depending on a home’s initial value and extent of damage, owners often reach the unfortunate conclusion that their once beloved home simply cannot feasibly be restored to a structurally sound, livable condition. Tragically, cherished dwellings that held a lifetime of memories must be left behind due to insurmountable structural and financial realities.

Insurance Battles and Seeking Compensation

Surge flooding leaves many houses totally demolished or structurally too unstable to repair at reasonable cost. This represents a painful financial loss for storm victims. Homeowners’ insurance policies may provide some coverage, but claims processes often involve steep hurdles in the aftermath of such widespread coastal disasters. Mass claims strain insurer resources, leading to systematic delays or denials to conserve funds. Even good-faith insurers often dispute the extent of structural instability, pressing homeowners to fund questionable repairs themselves.

By contacting competent legal counsel specializing in denied or limited insurance claims related to hurricane home damage, you take an important step toward getting fairly compensated. An experienced lawyer can advise if you have grounds to compel your insurer to fully cover your losses. They can also determine if negligence by other parties – home builders, for example – contributed to the extent of damages. In the long and arduous path to recovering from catastrophic surge flooding, getting legal help improves the odds of securing your financial rights.

Hurricane storm surge unleashes fierce destructive energy against houses in its path. The force of the floodwaters themselves, combined with ensuing moisture damage, takes a heavy toll on the structural integrity of soaked homes. Even houses left physically standing often prove to have critical underlying compromises, making saving them an unreasonable proposition for owners. Yet insurers all too frequently fail disaster victims through unwarranted claim denials and delays.

By consulting qualified legal counsel, you improve the chances of obtaining fair insurance compensation, or possibly damages from negligent home builders. After having your life turned upside down by catastrophic hurricane flooding, getting proper legal support helps the long process of staying on your feet and securing accountability. Though material possessions may be lost, hope lies ahead – if you know your legal rights and work with an experienced professional to demand the resources you need to rebuild.

If you’re struggling to receive an insurance payout following a storm, contact us today.

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

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

Roof Damage and Leaks: How to Spot and Prevent Storm-Related Roof Issues

Monday, January 15th, 2024

Severe storms can wreak havoc on your roof, leading to extensive damage and leaks if preventative measures aren’t taken. Being able to identify potential issues before and after storms can help you take quick action to mitigate costs and avoid headaches down the road. This guide will overview what to look for and how to protect your roof against storm-related damage.

Inspecting Your Roof Before a Storm

The best defense is a good offense when it comes to storm prep for your roof. Taking the time to thoroughly inspect for existing trouble spots or areas needing repair is key.

Look For Previous Repairs: Carefully inspect surfaces for any previous repairs, patches, or sealing. The materials or application methods used may not be as durable or weather resistant. These patches are more likely to become points of failure during storms.

Check Flashing: Flashing details around chimneys, vents, joints, valleys, and eaves are common leakage points. Look for cracked, loose, or missing flashing seals. Also, check for areas where flashing may have pulled away from the roof surface.

Examine Shingles/Tiles: Shingles or tiles that are cracked, cupped, or deformed need replacement. Curled-up edges or corners indicate loss of adhesion. Also, look for any missing or broken shingles/tiles that leave the roof deck exposed.

Clear Gutters and Downspouts: Clogged gutters can’t effectively divert water off the roof. Prune overhanging tree limbs, remove debris, and make sure downspouts are securely attached with water directed well away from the foundation.

Trim Overhanging Trees: Check for tree limbs or branches extending over the roof surface. Trim them back to avoid abrasion damage and keep excess leaves/debris off the roof.

Seal Exposed Fasteners: Exposed nail heads, staples, or screws create ready entry points for leaks. Brush waterproof caulk over and around exposed fasteners.

Inspect and Repair Vent Boots: The rubber boots around plumbing vents tend to crack over time. Look for signs of aging and re-seal using roofing cement or urethane sealant.

Check for Exposed Roof Deck: Curled back or missing roofing materials can leave sections of the vulnerable roof deck exposed. This needs patching prior to any storms.

Address any issues found without delay. It’s also smart to capture images of the roof’s condition before a storm for comparison later if damage occurs. Thorough prep work leads to better storm resilience.

What to Look for After a Severe Storm

Once the winds die down and the clouds part, get up on the roof again ASAP after a major storm. Look for the following trouble signs:

Wind Damage

  • Shingles/tiles that have blown off or become dislodged
  • Debris impact damage, like punctures from blown objects
  • Roof coverings peeled up or ripped along the edges
  • Sections of ridge cap blown away
  • Gutter hangers detached, causing whole sections to fall away
  • Evidence of wind turbulence, like patterns of missing granules scoured from shingles

Water Intrusion

  • Water stains on interior ceiling surfaces directly below the roof
  • Blistering or bubbling of interior paint near roof/ceiling joints
  • Buckling or sagging of drywall along the ceiling line
  • Mold or mildew developing around ceiling areas

Compromised Roof Deck

  • Visible daylight from the attic through the failing roof deck
  • Water dripping from previously secure nails/screw penetrations
  • Cracked or splintered roof decking is visible when inspecting attic
  • Soft, spongy, or weakened areas when walking on the roof surface

Flashing Leaks

  • Watermarks or staining on siding near flashing joints
  • Rust streaks originating from flashing details
  • Visible gaps, separation, or spreading where flashing meets the roofing
  • Missing or degraded caulk at seams and joints

Don’t delay addressing any storm damage spotted. Even small issues like a few blown-off shingles can progress to major roof problems if not repaired quickly. Prioritize trouble areas directly above living spaces prone to water intrusion when deciding where to start repairs.

Prevention Tips to Limit Storm Damage

Aside from inspection and repairs, some other preventative measures can bolster roof resilience:

  • Invest in impact-resistant shingles designed to withstand high winds and resist penetration from debris blows. Architectural-style shingles provide more durability than basic 3-tab shingles.
  • For flat roofs, coatings like urethane foam increase weatherproofing and help resist punctures during storms.
  • Have large trees near the roof professionally trimmed and thinned out to remove weight and wind resistance from branches.
  • Brace gable end framing with extra blocking to provide shear strength against roof failures along gable ends during high winds.
  • Add supplemental roof framing members and hurricane clips to strengthen critical joints prone to uplift and failure in high winds.
  • Install zinc strips at valleys and change roof planes to resist corrosion and leakage from stormwater runoff.
  • Caulk and seal all flashing, skylights, vents, and around chimneys prior to storm season using long-life flexible sealants.
  • Clear all roof drains, gutters, and downspouts before storm season to allow unobstructed drainage.

Applying preventative measures along with vigilant inspection before and after storms offers the best assurance of weathering storms with minimal roof damage. But even with diligent maintenance, unexpected damage can occur.

Seeking Help from a Storm Damage Attorney

If your roof suffers significant storm damage, you should be covered by your property insurance. But if they deny or delay claim payment, a storm damage attorney can advise you through the process. An attorney experienced with storm insurance claims may be able to:

  • Review your policy language and determine if the damage described should be covered.
  • Negotiate directly with your insurance company and their adjusters to gain claim acceptance and/or improve settlement amounts.
  • Assist you in compiling the necessary documentation and evidence to support your damage claim.
  • Represent you in litigation or settlement hearings if a fair claim resolution cannot be reached otherwise.

Don’t struggle alone if your insurance provider is unresponsive to a valid storm damage claim. Seek guidance from a qualified storm damage attorney to protect your interests and maximize claim resolution.

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.