Weathering the Storm: Expert Tips for Assessing and Documenting Storm Damage

Dealing with storm damage can be challenging and stressful at many stages of the journey. Many homeowners face delays and claim denials when filing insurance claims after major storms. Properly assessing and documenting the damage is crucial to getting your claim approved. This article provides expert advice on how to thoroughly evaluate and record storm damage to your property.

As Soon as It’s Safe, Do a Walkthrough of Your Property

Once the storm has passed and it’s safe to go outside, do a thorough walkthrough of your property. Look for any signs of damage including:

  • Downed trees or tree limbs
  • Missing or damaged sections of roof
  • Broken windows
  • Collapsed walls or ceilings
  • Flooding
  • Damage to vehicles, fences, landscaping, etc.

Take photos and videos from multiple angles as you assess each area. Zoom in on any major damage. This visual evidence will be vital for your insurance claim.

Look for Both Obvious and Hidden Damage

Some damage like missing shingles or a collapsed carport may be clear. But storms can also cause hidden damage you’ll need a professional to find like:

  • Structural damage to the foundation or roof framing
  • Electrical issues from water or winds
  • Mold growth inside walls or under flooring
  • Clogged gutters/drainage issues leading to interior water damage

Don’t assume your house survived unscathed just because you don’t see major destruction. There could be severe damage behind the walls or under the flooring that an adjuster won’t find unless you point it out.

Inspect the Roof Closely

The roof often sustains substantial damage during storms. Do a careful roof inspection looking for:

  • Missing, cracked, or loose shingles
  • Damage around skylights, vents, or chimney
  • Sagging or misaligned areas that could signal structural damage
  • Exposed nail heads that allow water intrusion

Leaks may form days later so look for water stains on ceilings and walls too. Even a single missing shingle can eventually lead to major roof and interior water damage.

Check for Structural Damage

Strong winds, flooding, and fallen trees can all undermine the structural integrity of a home. Look for:

  • Cracks in foundations or separating walls
  • Doors/windows out of alignment indicating shifting
  • Leaning posts, stairs, or sloping floors
  • Cracks or buckling in ceilings/walls

Have an engineer thoroughly assess any questionable areas. Repairing structural damage is expensive so you want to document it early for your claim.

Examine the Exterior

Storms wreak havoc on a home’s exterior. Carefully inspect:

  • Siding for missing, cracked, or detached areas
  • Damaged entryways, railings, decks
  • Downed or damaged patio covers/carports
  • Broken gutters/downspouts leading to water intrusion
  • Damage to sidewalks, driveways and landscaping

Look at fencing, gates, pools, and outdoor structures too. Even small exterior damage adds up cost-wise when repairing multiple areas.

Document Interior Damage from Flooding/Wind

Storm water and winds can damage home interiors. Record any:

  • Drywall/insulation damage from flooding
  • Water stains on walls, floors or ceilings
  • Peeling paint or buckling floors from water saturation
  • Doors and windows that no longer close properly due to wind damage
  • Broken glass, mirrors, cabinets, and other items smashed by winds

Look for mold growth and document any musty smells. Discoloration or bubbling carpet also signals interior water damage.

Document Everything with Detailed Notes

In addition to photographs and video, you should also document your damage with written notes. For each area of the property, record details like:

  • Type and extent of damage (missing shingles, cracked windows, detached gutter, etc.)
  • The date you noticed the damage
  • If the damage was present before the storm
  • Any previous repairs done in that area

This creates a thorough record of every damaged area for insurance and contractor estimates. If there are any disputes later on about what was original storm damage, your notes will provide crucial evidence.

Contact Your Insurance Company Right Away

You should notify your insurance company as soon as possible after the storm passes and you’ve assessed the damage. Per your policy, you likely have a limited window of time to report a claim. Filing quickly also shows the damage happened during the storm, not after.

Provide as much documentation as you can including your damage notes, photos, and any contractor estimates you’ve acquired. Ask about getting an advance payment if you need immediate funds for emergency repairs like covering broken windows.

Work with an Independent Adjuster

Insurance companies often send out staff insurance adjusters to evaluate damage and write up estimates. But these adjusters work for the insurance company, not you. Their damage reports may downplay or omit damage to minimize what your insurer pays out.

Request an independent insurance adjuster who only works for you, the policyholder. They act as your advocate to ensure you get full and fair compensation. Research shows independent adjusters get homeowners bigger claim payments plus they take the burden of negotiating with insurance off your shoulders.

Hire Reputable Contractors for Repair Estimates

Your insurer will compare your damage estimates with ones from their own contractors when determining claim payment. To maximize your payout, get repair quotes from highly-regarded local contractors familiar with storm restoration.

Check reviews and ask neighbors for referrals. Avoid brand-new contractors who pop up after storms to scam desperate homeowners. A detailed estimate from an established contractor can justify why you need more funds to properly repair or replace your home.

Have Professionals Check Key Systems

Storms can damage systems like electrical, HVAC, and plumbing in ways you may not notice. Have professionals inspect:

  • The electrical system for damaged wiring or panels
  • Appliances for water damage or electrical shorts
  • AC unit and ductwork for clogs or leaks
  • Plumbing for broken pipes or clogged drains

Document any issues needing repair. You want to fix these before secondary damage happens if a system fails further.

Calculate Temporary Housing Costs

If your home is uninhabitable while repairs are made, your policy may cover temporary housing costs. Make sure to factor in expenses like:

  • Renting a similar property for the estimated repair period
  • Storage fees for furniture and belongings
  • Increased transportation costs if displaced far from your home
  • Hotel bills if repairs happen quickly

Save receipts and track expenses to submit for reimbursement. Not tallying these costs could leave you financially strained.

Push Back If Your Claim is Undervalued

Sadly, insurance companies often lowball storm damage claims on the first assessment. Don’t just accept a minimal payout that won’t fully cover repairs. Dispute any underestimated costs and point to your documentation like contractor estimates that show more extensive repairs are needed.

Be firm that you must be compensated for all storm-related damage based on your policy coverage. Retaining legal counsel familiar with storm insurance claims may help resolve underpayment issues so you can fully repair your home.

Seek Legal Help if Your Claim is Denied

In worst-case scenarios, insurers may attempt to fully deny a storm damage claim, alleging the issues predated the event or are excluded by your policy. Never let a claims denial go uncontested! Immediately consult with an attorney to appeal the decision and get your claim properly reopened and paid.

With legal representation, you can push back against wrongful denials and any claims handling errors made along the way. An attorney can also help you maximize the policy benefits you’re owed when the damage is catastrophic. Don’t go it alone against the insurance company’s team of lawyers if your claim has been denied. With an advocate in your corner, you have strong legal recourse.

Get Help from an Experienced Storm Damage Attorney

Dealing with insurance after a devastating storm can quickly become overwhelming. An experienced storm damage lawyer can provide invaluable help securing the maximum claim settlement you’re entitled to. If your insurance provider isn’t covering the complete cost to repair your home, contact our office today to learn about your legal rights and options.

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

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


Latest Blog Posts

Consectetur adipiscing elit duis tristique sollicitudin nibh sit amet.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna ...
Read More

Eget sit amet tellus cras adipiscing enim.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna ...
Read More