Attorney Gary Bruce discusses the importance of preparing for flooding and natural disasters, including steps you should take to protect your property and how you can recover payment for any lost property. First, you should make sure you have flood insurance or a homeowner’s policy that covers damage from natural disasters. These policies do not apply to things that happened before the onset of the policy, so it is important to prepare for an occurrence like a hurricane or flood before it happens.
Another way you can assist in maximum recovery is to document your property with photos. Finally, recovering value for the lost property depends on what kind of coverage you have. Some policies provide for the replacement value whereas others offer the fair market value, which takes depreciation into account. Know what coverage you have and what to expect. If you have questions about insurance coverage or recovery from damages, we invite you to call our office for a free consultation and analysis of your situation.
For those of you that have experienced damage as a result of a storm, see Gary’s recent video Storm Damage Repair for tips on getting full compensation.
Narrator: Now answering your questions about the law and legal issues, this is Legal Break with attorney Gary Bruce.
Maureen: Hello there, Maureen Akers here with Gary today. Gary, we’re talking about Hurricane Harvey. It’s top of mind right now, happening in the Houston area with a lot of flooding. So, I guess the question is if you’re a homeowner what are some of the first steps you should take if such an event should happen?
Gary: What these people are facing, goodness, the last thing they should worry about right now is their insurance policy. Maybe that’s what you think about beforehand. So, what should we worry about? The difference, I think, is whether you have flood insurance or whether you have the kind of policy that will cover you regardless of what the cause is. Insurance policies are in effect on the day of the loss. Usually, it doesn’t apply to something that has already happened – you can’t buy it later to cover something that’s already happened, so the time to prepare is now. Look at your policy, talk to your agent, get renter’s coverage, get the things that will protect your assets and your losses.
Maureen: Absolutely. So, what should you do to document a loss? Say some events happen and you do have a loss, what should you do?
Gary: Well, there’s really no excuse anymore – you go to take pictures. You know, we take pictures of everything today, so take a selfie in front of your stuff, and do whatever it takes. Save the pictures, have the pictures, and that’ll help a lot later. Many times we’ve had a dispute with insurance companies and tried to helped people. They’re going, “Well, I don’t remember exactly what I had” because they didn’t go through with the video camera. Now, there’s no excuse – go through, take pictures, and do an inventory because you’ll be asked to do that whether it’s a fire loss or smoke loss. Some of these things you can recreate because the items are there, but heaven forbid they wash away at least you know you have the photographs to help you.
Maureen: Exactly, and when those events happen there is emotional trauma and you might not remember all the details, and like you said, having the pictures can really help. How can one expect to be paid after an event like Harvey? How do you recoup your losses?
Gary: That is a logistical nightmare – how do you get that many agents somewhere to study these losses? I think it comes down to what kind of coverage you have. Sometimes you only get reimbursed if you buy a replacement. Sometimes you’re paid on the fair market value of your stuff, so it’ll be depreciated. Look at your coverage because the insurance company will decide how much property loss they’re going to give you. That doesn’t even get into the “How do we fix this? Who fixed what? Who repays what?” side of things and all the repair issues. It’s really something to watch, it’ll be a nightmare for people in Houston.
Maureen: And look at your policy now. Thanks so much for joining us. We look forward to seeing you on the very next Legal Break.