By: Lee Epstein, Chair, Flaster Greenberg’s Insurance Counseling and Recovery Department
Hurricane Ida made landfall yesterday, exactly sixteen years to the day that Hurricane Katrina landed. Back then, I had just completed a trial in a small Parish next door to New Orleans. Fortunately, my flight home took off safely on Friday afternoon before Katrina hit the following Monday, August 29, 2005. I was spared the devastation suffered by so many along the Gulf Coast. But so many that I befriended lost so much.
Over the succeeding years, I’ve had many opportunities to revisit New Orleans and the surrounding area. I witnessed the recovery, reclamation and rebuilding of that vital community. It was slow and it was hard but it happened.
Beyond the personal toll exacted by Hurricane Ida, the property and business losses are projected to be among the greatest caused by a natural disaster. As the recovery efforts begin in earnest, this checklist is offered to assist those who are planning to submit an insurance claim for the property or business interruption loss suffered.
As Ida continues to ruble northward, the heartache is real and will continue. We’ve been down this road. It’s long, winding and exhausting. But we’ve made it through before and we will do so again.
Often a single loss can trigger coverage under multiple insurance policies.
Examine each loss through the prism of each policy to determine the potential for coverage.
Review each applicable insurance policy’s terms and conditions, including:
Notice requirements. Insurance policies typically require prompt notice of a loss or notice within a specified time period.
Proof of Loss requirements. A Proof of Loss form is typically furnished by an insurance company and must be completed by an insured and submitted within the time limits set forth in the policy. The form requires the insured to set forth the amounts being claimed under the policy, among other things. Some policies require the submission of this information automatically (even if a Proof of Loss form is not furnished by the insurance company).
Coverages, Limits, Sub-limits, and Deductibles. Commercial property policies typically provide coverage for property damage to buildings and contents/business personal property, Business Income loss, Extra Expense, among other things. To the extent possible, losses should be categorized within these coverage “buckets” when they are submitted to the insurance company. Consider consulting professionals, including a forensic accountant to assist you in quantifying and categorizing losses.
Provide prompt notice.
It is an obligation, and it triggers the insurer’s duty to investigate and pay or deny.
Failure to provide timely notice could result in the forfeiture of insurance.
Appoint a “Clerk of the Claim” to maintain a chronological record of all events pertinent to the claim (a “Claim Log”), including:
the date notice was provided;
the date and description of all mitigation efforts;
the date and description of all communications and events pertinent to the loss; (such as communications with insurance company adjusters), inspection dates and details (who inspected, what they inspected, when, and for how long);
any admissions made by insurance company representatives.
Document the loss through photographs, documents and witness interviews.
Mitigate. Insurance policies typically require the insured to protect property from further damage.