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Windstorms: Preparation and Filing for Loss

South Florida is rich in sun, sand, water, and wind. Advertisements for the area often depict people sunbathing or strolling along the beach, waves lapping the shore as a gentle breeze keeps things fresh. However, residents are familiar with the weather that lurks on the other side of this peaceful coin. Torrential rains lashed by howling winds can leave a path of devastation. Adequate preparation before severe weather arrives can help you minimize loss, whether you are a homeowner or a business owner.

For purposes of insurance, Florida law defines a windstorm as:

“wind, wind gusts, hail, rain, tornadoes, or cyclones caused by or resulting from a hurricane which results in direct physical loss or damage to property.”

There is no definition of windstorm when one occurs apart from a hurricane. The statutory definition also includes water damage to the interior and contents of a building when a windstorm first causes damage to the roof or walls, creating an opening through which the water enters.

The single most important way to make a difference in the amount of windstorm-related damage is to plan ahead. Assemble an emergency kit in advance and keep it in a safe, convenient location. Basic items include plastic tarps, emergency lighting, a battery-operated radio, tape for windows, lumber, and nails. Businesses should assign organization roles and responsibilities, with training provided at least annually, and should have a continuity plan for restoring operations after the windstorm has passed. Make sure someone on all shifts knows the proper procedures and is authorized to put them into action.

Wind is tough on roofing. Inspect yours and repair loose coverings, flashing, edging strips, drains, gutters, or downspouts. Make sure all roof-mounted equipment such as HVAC units and exhaust vents are secured. Similarly, protect windows and doors by covering them with pre-fitted windstorm shutters or plywood. Fasten loose outdoor items or move them inside. If you have any above-ground tanks, fill them to capacity with their normal content or with water to keep them anchored.

Examine the property for any large trees or limbs that could fall and remove them before they cause damage. Fill up fuel tanks in vehicles and generators. Businesses should also determine which records are vital and make plans to relocate them. Everyone can benefit from backing up important computer data and storing it in a safe offsite location.

When a storm is imminent, companies should remove as many goods as possible from the floor, and use plastic tarps to cover equipment and stock that cannot be relocated. Place sandbags at vulnerable building openings and around critical outdoor equipment subject to flooding. Shut off the building’s electrical power if there is a danger of flooding and shut off the gas to minimize fire loss.

Insurance policies are legally binding contracts under which both parties have obligations. Policyholders who pay their premiums expect insurance companies to accurately assess the damage done by a windstorm and pay the full extent of the loss. When that doesn’t happen and you have trouble receiving the compensation you deserve from your insurance carrier, it can be best to have an attorney advocate for you.

It’s also important to review insurance policies with an attorney to make sure that your needs are addressed and your rights are protected. And remember that in the event severe weather causes damage to your property, representatives sent for evaluation are not working for you. Rather, they are working on behalf of the insurance company, and insurers are businesses that want to settle the claim for as little as possible.

We Can Help

As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski & Funt, P.A. has helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities and remedies. We are highly experienced in handling wind loss claims and, in many cases, we can do so without cost to you. Fees and expenses are frequently paid by the insurance company, so nothing comes out of your recovery. We also work on a contingency basis, which means that if there is no recovery, there is no fee or cost to you. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-964-8644 or filling out a case evaluation form.

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