Check the details before accepting your Hurricane Irma claim settlement check
Property owners who were impacted by Hurricane Irma and filed a property insurance claim are starting to receive settlement offers from their insurance company. Some are shocked at the settlement offer they receive. Sometimes our firm will be retained by a homeowner only to receive a call several weeks later to say the insurance company adjuster had called them with a verbal settlement offer they might be able to live with. Even though it’s outside of our contract cancellation date and work may have begun on the loss, we typically wish them well and thank them for their consideration in selecting our firm to assist them. That got me thinking about all the property insurance claim offers we’ve gotten over the many years assisting clients.
As a public adjuster, I remembered a lesson I learned many years ago about verbal settlement offers. Insurance company adjusters are trained to measure and price a loss. While this process can be highly subjective and subject to negotiations on a lot of different factors, the offer may not in fact be what you will get in the form of a check. What has to be factored into any property insurance claim is the policy terms and conditions. While a good reputable insurance company adjuster will disclose these policy provisions to you with the offer, others will not, just so they can get you to agree and perhaps sign a proof of loss or even worse a full release.
So before accepting an offer, ask if it is net of all policy terms and conditions. Ask about depreciation, co-insurance issues that may be applied to penalize you for being under insured and if deductibles were applied properly.
Even if these policy terms and conditions are applicable, they may be subject to different interpretations and negotiations. As an example, does the deductible come off the loss or the covered loss? If a co-insurance penalty is being applied, can accepting an actual cash value settlement (and thus having the co-insurance figured on the actual cash value of the property) reduce its effect? And remember that depreciation amounts are very subjective and negotiable.
Just remember that before you accept a final claim settlement offer, that you know the details of how the insurance company adjuster arrived at his/her figures. Ask that any offer made to you verbally be put in writing, so you can read and understand how the numbers were calculated. Once you cash that insurance check, some of your options may be gone.
If you have questions regarding any property insurance related issue caused by Hurricane Irma please call 800-321-4488 or contact a licensed Florida Public Adjuster to submit a question to one of our insurance claim experts.