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Homeowners' next step after Matthew

Double-check insurance policies

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hurricane Matthew left a wake of destruction up Florida’s coast. The strong winds and storm surge left homes damaged and left questions looming in homeowners' minds of what to do next.

Navigating the complex web of property and homeowners insurance can be a daunting task. That’s why both insurance companies and law firms are trying to put out all the information they can to homeowners and renters about what options they have.

There are multiple things to be aware of -- everything from flooding, which is only covered if you have flood insurance, to things such as spoiled food, which can be insure -- but you need to talk to your agent first.

When the worst circumstances hit, it can be overwhelming. That’s why USAA, an insurance company that works with military members, set up a tent at the Walmart near The Avenues Mall.

“We do this whenever we have large things happen, and we know Hurricane Matthew has affected a lot of our membership and what we do is go out there and be there for them,” USAA insurance agent Scott Myrick said.

USAA’s goal is to tell homeowners and renters what their rights are. For instance, with renters and owners, they said, you can be eligible for such things as being reimbursed for food you lost or hotel expenses if it was a mandatory evacuation.

Another option for homeowners and property owners to look into is an insurance adjuster.

Randy Reep is a Jacksonville attorney who recommends getting a second opinion with a public adjuster.

Reep said oftentimes insurance companies may offer adjusters who don’t’ find everything and you find more problems after you've settled, but by then it can be too late.

“The public adjuster kind of thinks of it as going to a doctor with a second opinion saying, ‘Hey am I getting everything I need?’ because very often these matters get litigated because they’re not completely satisfied as the damages you see in your house,” Reep said.

Some insurance agents are not as big a fan of public adjusters because often an attorney is involved in hiring the adjuster. On the other side Reep said they are helpful and recommends getting a second opinion before you sign any agreement with an insurance company.

Insurance industry standards and homeowners best practices for claims

Insurance agent Matt Carlucci and attorney Eddie Farah sat down with News4Jax’s Jennifer Waugh to explain to home owners and property owners some insurance industry standards and best practices for making claims.

According to insurance agent Matt Carlucci, the insurance industry has a standard when it comes to tree damage. When a neighbor’s tree that is green and alive hits your house, depending on where the tree has fallen, the neighbor’s insurance will pay for the portion of the tree that fell on their property.

Then your insurance should pay for the portion of the tree that fell on your property. If the tree hit another property, that property owner’s insurance will pay for that portion of the damage.  However, if it is a dead tree and it should have been cut down in the past, then the property owner’s insurance where the tree originated is responsible for the damage.  As the property owner with a dead tree -- that became a liability because it was neglected from being cut down. 

Attorney Eddie Farah explained that legally a deductible can go two different ways -- some have a dollar amount while some have a percentage. Farah said always read and check your policy to understand what you will be paying in the deductible and what the insurance company will pay you for your damage. Determining the value of the damage depends again on your policy as well.  You can have either replacement cost or cash value replacement costs. When a policy involves replacement cost, the insurance company will give the value amount of that item to date. Cash value allows the insurance company to pay you in cash what the object damaged was worth at the time it was damaged.

The key point made by both Carlucci and Farah is how important it is for the homeowner to know their policy and be able to work with your neighbors and their insurance agents to ensure the damage is taken care of for all those involved.

About the Authors:

Specializes in Clay County issues, general assignment reporting and stories off the beaten path and anchors weekend evening newscasts.