I wanted to talk briefly about evacuation plans and how they relate to an insurance claim. While these things might sound unrelated, the reality is that in Louisiana, they often are quite related. The tradition in Louisiana has been to stick around for hurricanes. However, for obvious reasons a lot of that changed in 2005. Now many more people evacuate at the first sign of a hurricane instead of waiting until things get very bad.
It absolutely makes sense to have whatever evacuation plan works for you. The most important thing of course is always to be safe. I do, however, want to provide a little bit of advice as it relates to figuring out what you should do to secure your property in advance of an evacuation.
There are certain things that are obvious. You want to make sure that any windows are boarded up and that anything that might be affected by a flying object is somehow secured and strengthened. You also want to make sure that you’ve taken appropriate precautions to secure your home from theft and vandalism.
Beyond that you need to have an inspection plan. When I say “inspection plan” what I mean is if you know you’re leaving for a hurricane, you need to have some kind of plan to at least get your property looked at afterwards. If you intend to stay away longer than most people would stay away, you might want to see if a neighbor or a friend or family member would be willing to go to your house and walk around after the storm and take a look.
The problem here is that you have a duty to mitigate your damages. So for instance if a big hole is put in your roof after a storm, you might need to put a tarp over it to prevent it from raining inside. This is not something you can do if you stay away for an extra week or two after a hurricane. Many people have started staying away longer and longer as a result of these evacuations. After all, who wants to sit in a house with no electricity during a Louisiana summer?
It’s not a difficult concept. It’s just something you really need to take into account. As far as an inspection goes. I don’t mean that you need to have an insurance adjuster or anyone that’s going to cost you money on hand. You just need to have someone that will walk through every inch of the house and look for any problems. Was anything broken? Is there any water in the house? Is there mold starting to develop? These are things you want to be able to know as soon as possible. You also want to be able to do anything you need to do to mitigate that damage.
Obviously, you would want this to be someone you trust. Will your claim be denied if you don’t have someone walk through your home and you’re gone an extra week or two?
There’s no way to say but many claims will not be denied because of that. This is just advice to help you with suspenders and belt in terms of getting your hurricane claim processed as fast as possible. Also, if someone walks through that home and tells you there’s damage, you can call your insurance company from wherever you are and hopefully an adjuster can come out as soon as possible. It goes without saying that the faster an adjuster comes and looks at your property, the faster your claim can start moving towards resolution. One of the only certainties in life is that your insurance company probably won’t pay for something it doesn’t know about.
I know that I’m infamous for saying here that insurance companies won’t treat you fairly, but the reality is that some may. While my job to be pessimistic about these things, some insurance companies may pay you a fair amount off the bat and obviously the sooner you can get this pay the sooner you can fix your property. In fact, I see a lot of claims that only get bigger than they should be as a result of delay.
Finally, I would strongly suggest, before you evacuate, documenting the condition of your home. I will say this multiple times. I know this can sound silly, but it really isn’t. You’re trying to think about grabbing cash and gas and making sure you have a place to stay while getting the family, pets, and taking the important things. But if you have a chance, even if it’s just with your smartphone or a disposable camera, walk through the home and take as many photos of inside and outside as you can. Videos are great too. This will help establish what the condition of your home was right before you evacuated. If you get photos of everything all boarded up and secured as well, it will show that you tried to protect your property.
These are just a few tips, and we will keep adding to these over time, because at this time of year it occupies a lot of people’s minds. If you have any questions, my door is always open.
Galen M. Hair, an aggressive and relentless litigator, is licensed in multiple states and boasts clients from around the world. This unwavering success to continual improvement has led him to be named as a Super Lawyer Rising Star, a Top Lawyer by New Orleans Magazine, the Pro Bono Publico Award and numerous other accolades.