Storm Damage Insurance Claims: Did I Report the Damage Soon Enough?

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So, a while back our firm had the privilege of representing a large commercial building in Louisiana that suddenly had water coming in through its roof. Now I’m not talking about a drip. I’m talking about an absolute waterfall. We initially thought that this might be due to a recent hurricane. Once we got on the roof, we discovered very quickly that it was actually hail damage from a storm that had occurred quite some time ago. Now the interesting thing about that hail damage was that water didn’t initially make itself known until there was a large wind, which of course push the water through the roof and ceiling. The hurricane was the metaphorical straw that broke the camel’s back. The hail was the actual incident.

Now our client filed a claim for damage and unsurprisingly the insurance company refused to pay a penny. They had all sorts of reasons for this. First, they tried to argue that our client had waited too long. Then they tried to argue that they couldn’t tell what the cause of the damage was. Eventually, they settled on a defense that the roof was just too old.

This was not an easy case for us to push forward for our client, because we would need to ultimately prove that hail had damaged this roof quite some time ago with very little evidence.

It’s easier to make a case when you have a storm, and the next day there is damage, but that’s not always what happens. I have heard of an unfortunate number of clients that have backed off of their claims, because they thought they couldn’t prove it. This happens when a homeowner has trouble tying whatever was going on in their home to a specific loss event.

This is the importance of hiring a property casualty attorney who will work with experts to determine what the cause of your damage was and will help you in reporting it to the insurance company. The insurance company may tell you that you have a duty to promptly notify them of the loss. But the question becomes what is the nature of that duty? Is it a duty to simply tell them as soon as you know? Is it something greater?

Some insurance companies take the attitude that you need to tell them as soon as the loss occurs. what happens though if you don’t know that the loss has occurred? When that occurs and you figure out that a loss has happened much earlier and the damage to your property is only now coming to light, you need to make sure you promptly report this to your insurance company and that you can explain why you didn’t notice the damage earlier.

Insurance companies are typically going to look at delayed claims as somewhat more suspect. We can’t get into the specifics of the resolution of this case for a number of reasons, but we did spend quite some time litigating against the insurance company and assembled a team of witnesses and experts that were able to testify that hail had hit that roof, hail had damaged that roof, and that such damage was covered by an insurance policy.

Hail damage can be very difficult. Insurance companies love to make those claims difficult. Fortunately, we love to frustrate insurance companies.

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