Protect your family financially this hurricane season
By Daniel Lustig
Special to the Sun Sentinel
South Florida got incredibly lucky last year. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active on record, generating an extraordinary 30 named storms, 13 hurricanes and six major hurricanes. Florida was touched by only four of the named storms with Hurricane Eta being the only system to make direct landfall in the state. But if we look back at the past five years, every season has been “above-normal,” resulting in over $600 billion in damage and hundreds of deaths.
And it looks like this year will be no different.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is predicting another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, which officially runs from June 1 through Nov. 30 every year. We cannot count on being as fortunate as we were last year and must use this time to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.
When most people think about hurricane preparedness, hurricane kits packed with water, nonperishable food, flashlights and first aid kits are the first thing that comes to mind. But all too often, we forget one of the most important things we need to do to protect ourselves and our families should the worst come our way — be certain that we are insured properly and covered legally.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is assuming they are already covered for damage caused by hurricanes. In fact, the No. 1 cause of property damage due to a hurricane is storm surge, and most homeowner’s insurance policies actually exclude flood damage, meaning your flooded house and ruined belongings won’t be covered by your policy. Furthermore, in many coastal areas, home insurers partially or completely exclude wind damage, one of the most common claims made even after the weakest of storms. Not understanding what’s covered by your policy can be a crucial error, therefore it is important to review your homeowner’s coverage with your insurance agent, and even double-check the paperwork with your attorney.
Here are more crucial ways you can prepare for hurricane season to protect your family from financial disaster after a natural one:
- Document your home and belongings. Create a home inventory by recording all of your belongings, especially detailing the more expensive items, and ensure this list is accessible through cloud-based storage. Take pictures and video of your home’s interior and exterior to provide proof of any specific effects the storm has on your property.
- Secure important documents. Ensure important documents like wills, living trusts, powers of attorney, health care proxies, titles, deeds, birth certificates, passports, or anything else that you can think of are stored in a secured safe that is both waterproof and fireproof. Be sure to leave the combination to the safe with someone you trust in the event that you cannot be there to unlock it.
- Make necessary improvements to your home. Now is the time to ensure that you have access to your hurricane shutters and that they are fully operational. Be proactive by cutting down any trees or large branches that overhang your property and remove all outdoor furniture, umbrellas, grills, etc. Anything you can prevent is a claim you don’t have to make!
If you are hit by a hurricane, remember to file a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible. Most policies include vague wording that states claims must be made “promptly,” so don’t take too long to file yours. Having said that, you will most likely need to be patient as your insurance company may become backlogged with claims in a short amount of time. To ensure your claim is taken care of as promptly and fairly as possible, it is best to have an experienced attorney handle the process so you can focus on your family, your resources and getting your life back together.
Daniel Lustig is a partner with Pike & Lustig, LLP, a full-service Florida law firm with an emphasis on personal injury and business litigation in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties.