Louisiana Hurricane Insurance Attorney
Assisting Policyholders with Denied, Delayed, or Underpaid Claims.
As a Louisiana-based law firm with offices in New Orleans and Houston, we understand that Louisiana is susceptible to destructive hurricanes and tropical storms. Hurricanes Laura, Isaac, and Katrina caused billions in damage and forced residents and business owners through a difficult and painful rebuilding process. The citizens of Louisiana understand all too well the hard work to bring back our communities.
Following a hurricane, we rely on insurance companies to pay the money needed to rebuild our homes and businesses. Your insurance is a contractual benefit that you have likely paid premiums for years. The sad reality is that claim process following a hurricane can be frustrating. Insurance companies often delay, deny, or underpay claims preventing residents and business owners from fully getting back on their feet.
Johns Law Group’s team of attorneys provides the expertise, guidance, and resources necessary to assist Louisiana policyholders through delayed, denied, and underpaid hurricane insurance claims. We have recovered millions for our clients against some of the nation’s largest insurance companies.
PROMPT PAYMENT AND BAD FAITH
Louisiana law requires insurance companies to investigate, adjust, and pay claims promptly and to handle claims in good faith. When insurance companies do not comply with these laws they may be required to pay penalties ranging from 50% to double the value of the claim plus attorney’s fees and other damages that you can prove up in court.
Actions that can be considered bad faith conduct include:
- Not timely beginning loss adjustment;
- Not communicating with the insured;
- Unjustifiably delaying claim adjustment;
- Undervaluing the amount of damage;
- Ignoring damaged items that you asked the insurance company to pay;
- Misrepresenting the terms or meaning of the policy;
- Making other misrepresentations;
- Refusing to reinspect the property upon request;
- Refusing to produce reports upon request;
- Delaying in the issuance of settlement checks;
- Not paying the full amount of money owed;
- Requesting unnecessary information or documentation from the policyholder;
- Improperly denying claims;
- Applying bogus exclusions.
Proving bad faith or failure to promptly pay a claim depends on the specific facts of a case. Our team conducts a detailed review of the claim history to determine if there is any basis to recover penalties or attorney’s fees.
TYPICAL PROBLEMS IN THE INSURANCE CLAIM PROCESS
- Delayed Claims
One of the most frustrating parts of the claim process following a hurricane is the delays in getting your claim resolved. Claims are delayed for a variety of reasons, including:
- Not promptly scheduling an inspection;
- Nor returning calls or messages from the insured;
- The insurance company insists on multiple inspections by adjusters or engineers,
- The adjuster repeatedly asks for new documentation;
- The insurance company only pays a portion of what is owed.
If your claim has been unnecessarily delayed, the assistance of an attorney who understands
- Underpaid Claims
The most common problem people have with their insurance company following a hurricane is an underpaid claim. It is important to understand that following a catastrophic event insurance companies often assign adjusters numerous properties to inspect in a very short period of time. These adjusters often spend very little time inspecting the property to prepare the initial report used to pay your claim. As a result, many damaged items are simply omitted from the insurance company’s initial damage estimate.
Most property owners try to do the best they can with the money that was initially paid. They ultimately realize that they money is not enough to repair their home or business properly. The choice is then to ask the insurance company for more money or find a contractor to cut corners.
Unfortunately, insurance companies often dig in their heels and refuse to pay the full amount of money owed to their insured. One of the reasons insurance companies say no is that most policyholders will not retain an attorney to represent them. We have had cases where the insurance company ultimate paid out hundreds of thousands in new money simply because they knew the property owner had an attorney willing to go to court.
Most underpaid claims deal with a variety of problems concerning pricing, scope, or omitted/overlooked items.
Pricing problems relate mostly to the cost of materials, labor, or other factors that impact the price of performing construction work. Following a catastrophic event, the cost of materials skyrockets. There is also a shortage of licensed contractors, which causes labor and project management costs to rise. Insurance companies tend to base their pricing on computer models that are not relevant to the situation on the ground. We work with experts to reconcile pricing differences by determining what is the prevailing cost to do the work. That is what you are owed.
Scope essentially means that there is a disagreement about how much work needs to be performed. Insurance companies tend to want the homeowner to patch up the damage instead of fully repairing it. A common example is that the insurance company may pay to patch up damaged shingles instead of paying for a new roof. The same goes for almost every part of the property: sheetrock, flooring, tile, pain, cabinets, and siding, just to name a few. Significantly limiting the scope of work can save the insurance company tens of thousands of dollars. You are entitled to a property that is fully restored. Not a patched up house that will cause problems in the future.
Insurance companies often overlook during their inspections numerous items that were damaged during a hurricane. This is partially a function of the fact that insurance companies spend little time thoroughly inspecting the damaged property. Further, some insurers and adjusters have a “prove your claim” mentality that forced the property owner to have to push back against the insurer. The sad reality is that most property owners do not fight back. Insurance companies know this and use it to their advantage.
If you are dealing with an underpaid insurance claim, call the attorneys at Johns Law Group for a second opinion. We will thoroughly review your claim, retain experts to fairly estimate your damage, and fight to get you the compensation you deserve.
- Denied Claims
Insurance policies are notoriously complex. Most policies contain numerous limitations and exclusions to insurance coverage. The statutes, regulations, and case law interpreting insurance contracts and regulating insurance companies’ conduct are extensive. We help policyholders navigate through the full or partial coverage denials.
Insurance companies often strain to find ways to deny completely all or part of valid claims. For example, your policy may include a mold exclusion. Following a hurricane, your roof may begin to leak causing water damage and mold to develop in the interior. An insurance company may deny the mold damage on the grounds that it is excluded. However, courts have held that the mold exclusion applies only when the mold is naturally occurring. In other words, if the mold is caused by a covered peril, such as water intrusion from wind damage, then the claim should be covered.
Louisiana courts have held that insurance contracts should be interpreted broadly in favor of expanding coverage. Further, coverage exclusions and limitations should be narrowly construed. Despite knowing this, insurance companies sometimes wrongfully apply coverage exclusion or deny valid claims.
WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING NOW
Following a hurricane, home and business owners should do the following:
- Take as many pictures of the damage as possible. This includes pictures of the dwelling, other structures, and contents.
- Keep a record of your communications with the insurance company.
- Make a thorough list of your damaged personal property.
- Keep all receipts and invoices.
- Keep a thorough record of your additional living expenses.
You have a duty to mitigate or limit further damage to the property. This does not mean you have to pay out of pocket to make complete repairs. However, you may need to take practical measures to limit damage, such as placing a tarp on the roof or doing some basic demolition.
WHEN TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY
The time to hire a hurricane damage attorney is different for each person. However, if you feel your insurance company is unnecessarily delaying, denying, or underpaying your claim, you may need an experienced property casualty attorney to help you get the compensation you deserve.