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Florida, North Carolina attorneys address hurricane litigation with webinar

Joe Dyton Nov. 18, 2016, 12:11pm

In the aftermath of the damage Hurricane Matthew caused in the Southeast, attorneys worked through NorthCarolinaFloodClaims.com to put together a free Skype presentation Nov. 7 given by prominent insurance lawyer J.R. Whaley to help these flooded areas recover.

The presentation took place at the Quality Inn & Suites in Tarboro, but was also available online via live webinar for those who couldn’t attend. The Whitley Law Firm and Crouse Law Offices of Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Law Office of Thomas L. Young of Tampa, were co-hosts for the presentation.

Part of the discussion focused on how homeowners could recover from losses suffered through hurricane. Whaley offered a preview of what Matthew victims should expect during the next few months, based on his experiences following the disaster in Baton Rouge. Prior to the event, Whaley said Louisiana companies were consistently offering at least 50 percent less than what independent adjusters actually think the losses will be. It’s a heads up for Matthew victims when they deal with their own insurance claims negotiation process.

Although the total loss was estimated to be more than $30 billion, recent Matthew damage was estimated to be somewhere between $3 and $6 million. Although that fell well below the estimated damage, it doesn’t bring much solace to flooded homeowners, especially when this damage isn’t covered by conventional homeowner policies.

A concern raised by Tom Young was how quickly insurance company’s wanted to get in touch with insureds and schedule adjuster visits. On the surface, it sounds like a good thing that insurance companies want to help victims get their settlement quickly, but Young said it’s only a good if the fast offer is fair, which isn’t always the case.

“The obsession with speed will likely lead to errant estimates from insurance company adjusters,” Young said. “And while most adjusters employed by insurers are honest operators, the simple fact is they are paid by companies that want to minimize their claims-paid exposure. All things being equal, human nature says that these insurance company employed adjusters may err on the side of a low offer.”

“[To help insure a fair offer people should] call their insurance company, ask the company to send out an insurance adjuster from the company to review the damage and the potential claim,” Florida Justice Reform Institute President William Large told the Florida Record.

 Young suggested that rather than jump at the first offer, the insured should remember the settlement process is a negotiation and they should consider getting second and even third opinions.

“Whether insurance company employed adjusters have a natural bias toward minimizing claims or simply make mistakes when rushing to visit and evaluate thousands of structures, the policyholder must remain vigilant,” he said.

 "If a contractor came to you and said, ‘this is how much it’ll cost to fix this repair,’ call your insurance company,” Large said. “Have your insurance company call an adjuster and review that number and the damages.”