First Steps in Analyzing Property Damage, Business Interruption Claims Due to Hurricane Laura

By Rick Norman

As the recovery process begins in southwest Louisiana, our Taylor Porter attorneys want to share important information with you as you work to rebuild your homes and businesses.

Reviewing all potentially applicable insurance policies for coverage is a key step in recovering from this historic hurricane. For instance, some homeowners’ policy provisions may exclude coverage for property damage caused by flooding but nevertheless insure damage to the home caused by rain or wind. Business interruption insurance may provide coverage for business interruption losses due to damage to the business’ customers or suppliers. Your homeowner’s policy ordinarily does not cover your vehicle in a flood situation. If your vehicle sustains water or flood damage, you can file a claim under your comprehensive insurance coverage, which may cover any type of damage to your car up to its actual cash value that is caused by natural disasters instead of accidents. Some federal disaster assistance programs may help with vehicles that are damaged by flood.

Coverage for all of these type of claims will largely turn on the language of the pertinent insurance policies. For those who suffered damages to their homes, businesses, or automobiles, as a result of the hurricane, we suggest the following tips:

  • Notify Your Insurer to Start Claims Process – Make sure you have the name of your insurance company, policy number, and a telephone number and/or email address where you can be reached. An adjuster should contact you within a few days of filing your claim. If you do not know the name of your insurer, contact your insurance agent and request this information.
  • Keep a Timeline of Communication with Insurance Company – In some cases, insurers have a specific amount of time to adjust your claim in good faith or be liable for penalties. The date your insurer was put on notice of a claim and dates on which the insurer accepted or rejected your claim may be critical to the process. Keep any written communications from your insurer.
  • Document the Damage to Your Home or Business – Separate damaged from undamaged property. Your insurer will need evidence of the damage to your home and possessions to prepare your repair estimate. Take photographs of all of the damaged property, including discarded objects, structural damage, and standing floodwater levels. Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their date of purchase, value, and receipts, if possible. Officials may require disposal of damaged items so, if possible, place flooded items outside of the home.
  • Compile Legal Documents and Financial Records on Business Losses – Financial records and legal documents related to your business interruption following the hurricane need to be compiled. Those documents include business contracts, budgets, company forecasts, income tax returns, financial statements, payroll statements, property lease and rental agreements, and of course, your insurance policies. Keep detailed records and receipts of costs incurred since the hurricane, including relocation costs, cost of a generator, cost of notifying customers of relocation or shut-down during inaccessibility, and shipping charges to move out existing inventory.
  • Seek Outside Assistance to Review Applicable Insurance Policies – Your specific insurance policy provisions will control the rights and obligations of your insurer regarding property damage and commercial business interruption claims. These provisions can be complex, so you should consider contacting outside legal counsel to help you better understand your policies.
  • Form a Claims Team – Outside experts can include legal counsel, independent adjusters, professional claims consultants, forensic accounting firms, etc., to advise that losses are properly measured and documented when submitting your property damage or business interruption insurance claim. Having outside counsel involved in the process helps to ensure you are getting the right legal advice.
  • Complete a Proof of Loss to Support Your Claim – A Proof of Loss is your sworn statement of the amount you are claiming, including necessary supporting documentation for your official claim for damages. If your damages result from rising water or storm surge, you’ll need to file your Proof of Loss with your flood insurer within 60 days of the flood. This document substantiates the insurance claim and is required before the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or insurance company can make payment.

Taylor Porter’s regional footprint allows for continued operations for our Lake Charles clients following Hurricane Laura. Our Taylor Porter attorneys remain available to help with any part of your hurricane claims process. Please remember there is a short time fuse on flood claims. Feel free to contact any of our practice group leaders if you have legal questions in the recovery process.