Wind vs. Water – Don’t Let One Insurance Carrier Blame the Other

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With Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida, the potential for storm surge is high around the state. Storm surge is the rising of the ocean as a result of atmospheric pressure and wind associated with a storm. Storm surge is excluded under the typical home and business owner’s insurance policies through a “Water” or “Flood” exclusion. For those with separate flood insurance policies, what happens when your home or business is damaged by wind and storm surge?

One easy way for an insurance company to try to weasel out of paying wind benefits is to blame the flood, and tell you to go get the money to repair your home or business from that “other” insurance company. After all, the insurance policy likely includes an “Other Insurance” clause that may say something just like that. In reality, the “Other Insurance” clause probably doesn’t apply, and you may be able to get paid up to full policy limits by both insurance companies.

Another way insurance companies have tried to weasel out of paying wind benefits is claiming that if an insured made a storm surge claim, it was an admission that it was flooding that caused the damage, not wind. Most courts have declined to follow that logic, holding that it is unfair to blame an insured for not exactly segregating the damage between wind and flood at the time the claims are submitted. Usually in catastrophic losses it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to segregate the damage between wind and flood. It would be unreasonable and unfair to let insurers who collected hurricane premiums off the hook if the insured can’t immediately segregate and quantify the damage.

Insurance companies have also tried to avoid paying benefits by claiming that hurricane damage is combined with other types of losses that are not covered. This was the case in Sebo v. American Home Assurance Co., Inc., 208 So. 3d 694 (Fla. 2016). The roof on the Sebo home was admittedly installed incorrectly when hurricane winds damaged it. The insurance company denied the hurricane claim based on excluded faulty installation and defective workmanship. The case went all the way to the Florida Supreme Court, who applied the concurrent causation doctrine to determine that there may still be coverage for the hurricane damage under these circumstances.

When making your Hurricane Irma claim, don’t let your insurance companies pass the buck onto other insurers or other excluded causes of loss. If you paid hurricane premiums and suffered hurricane damage, you should be getting hurricane benefits. At Geyer Fuxa Tyler, our passionate lawyers have extensive experience handling hurricane claims. If you have Hurricane Irma damage, please contact our office today to schedule a free review of your case. We handle claims in Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Tampa, and throughout Florida. Call us today at 1-877-LAW-IRMA (529-4762).

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