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April 19, 2024

Property Damage

The attorneys at Smiley Injury Law are well versed and experienced in dealing with insurance claims. The firm was founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

We are truly insurance claims lawyers. We have handled hundreds of claims for our clients and family. We even handle our own personal claims when we suffer property damage losses.

Over the years insurance companies have been clamping down and tightening coverage. Policy language is drafted to exclude as much as possible. Homeowners and business owners think they have good coverage but we see insurance claims deny claims often. Policies do not cover the losses. The claims adjusters are hired to low ball claims in a effort to make as much money as possible for the insurance company.

Do You Need A Lawyer For Your Insurance Claim?

The quick answer to the question of whether you need an attorney to file and insurance claim is simply, no. The insurance claims process is designed to be easy enough for the claimant or insured to make and handle the claim. Think auto insurance where you make a claim on your vehicle if you’ve been in an accident. The process should be simple.

However, the current landscape for insurance claims for property is not as easy. Residential houses and commercial business properties have a lot going on with the property. There are structural claims that can be made and contents claims that are made if there is contents coverage.

There is also a lot of variance between what a homeowner or property owner thinks damage is worth and what the insurance company thinks it is worth. The reason it is good to have an experienced insurance claims lawyer on your side is to help fight the insurance company and get you what you deserve for your loss.

Insurance claims lawyers know how to deal with the complexities of the insurance claims process. They also make sure that the insurance company is following all the laws in dealing with insureds. The insurance claims lawyer can also help to find contractors who can give estimates to get the homeowner or property owner all the damages that have been suffered because of the storm, flood or occurrence.

Sure, there is a fee, usually around 30-40% of the entire claim for the attorney, but many times the insurance claims lawyers can get you many times more than you originally were going to get from the insurance company in the first place.

Insurance Bad Faith

Insurance bad faith is a term of art that is used in the insurance and legal world to classify acts or omissions which have been performed by the insurance company in dealing with a claim. This can be a number of different things, which have been enumerated by statute and case law through the years. Louisiana bad faith statutes La R.S. 22:1964 and La R.S. 22:1973 can be found at these links. You tell me if insurance claims lawyers are needed after reading these statutes!

One example is failing to pay a settlement within 30 days after a settlement has been put in writing, typically by letter, email, proof of loss or formal settlement agreement.

There are several other examples of reasons an insurance company can be held to be in bad faith. The great thing about bad faith claims is the ability to collect penalties against the insurance company for up to two times the amount of the damages. As my four-year-old would say, “that’s cool!”

Hurricane Insurance Claims

Hurricane insurance claims can be unique. Normal insurance claims for fire or water have a typical process. Hurricane insurance claims are different due to the large amount of claims in a short amount of time. The insurance company and adjusters are inundated with claims all at one time, therefore they have issues responding to all of the claims in a timely manner. The laws are against the insurance companies in these instances.

Hurricane claims are also unique because many times there are both flood and property claims. Here in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, we had to battle insurance companies over flood vs wind and wind driven rain. There are two different policies at play here.

The most beneficial claims for home and business owners are the property claims. Flood claims are not as lucrative because flood policies in Louisiana are underwritten by the Federal government, NFIP. There is no way to hold the Federal government in violation of State bad faith statutes.

The key to getting the most out of your hurricane claims is to get as much damage classified as wind and wind driven rain as possible. This will be covered by your property or homeowners policy, where insurance claims lawyers can hold the insurance company to a higher duty to play nicely.

How To Handle Your claim

The key with starting your claim is to put the insurance company on notice. The best way, to ensure proper proof of making the claim, is to make the claim in writing. There is a way to make claims over the phone, but we always advise to make the claim in writing whether it be an email, fax or letter.

Many times people will call to make the initial claim and then follow up with an email confirmation. Also, the insurance company will follow up any calls with a written notice of the claim.

Once the claim is made, the insurance company will assign an adjuster to your claim. Often, adjusters do not work directly for the insurer. They typically work for an adjusting company and the insurance will retain that company to handle the claims.

The adjuster will make contact with you to set up a time to visit the property so that the claim can be documented. Here is a link to Allstate’s claims page where they also give step by step instruction on how to handle a claim. Each insurance company should have a similar page of where to start the claim process.

The insurance claims lawyers at Smiley Injury Law always advise that clients who make a claim always document the claim outside of the adjuster for the insurance company. This includes taking pictures and video of the damage. It can also include hiring your own public adjuster.

Many times the estimate completed by the insurance company’s adjuster is not as comprehensive and detailed as the one you will get from an adjuster you hire. Remember that insurance adjusters work for the insurance company. They are looking out for the insurance company’s best interest.

Getting your own certified public adjuster is always a good idea. Then if the insurance company does not want to pay for your estimate, that is when you call an insurance attorney like the ones at Smiley Injury Law to help you get the compensation you deserve.

Fill out the form on this webpage to tell us about your insurance claim. We can quickly tell you if there is more opportunity for you to maximize your claim.

Smiley Injury Law is now taking clients who suffered damage from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Nate.

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