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
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.