Hurricane Ida ripped through the Gulf Coast beginning Sunday, August 29, leaving a path of destruction in its wake, arguably not seen since Katrina. Hurricane-related damages can vary from simple things like downed trees to major structural issues to flooding, and property owners need reassurance that they will be reimbursed for these expenses.
This article is designed to help commercial property owners who have been affected by Hurricane Ida in Louisiana understand their insurance claim process and how Hurricane Ida impacts what they are entitled to as compensation for damage incurred.
Hurricane Ida: The Numbers So Far
Fitch Ratings Inc. estimated a potential insurance industry loss from Hurricane Ida of $15 billion to $25 billion in its note Monday, which would be well below the record $65 billion set by Hurricane Katrina back in 2005. The hurricane made landfall as a Category 4 on Sunday. It will likely surpass winter storm Uri’s insured losses when it hit swaths of the country last February, causing about $15 bn worth of damages.
While Ida tied with the Last Island Hurricane in 1856 and Hurricane Laura for the strongest maximum sustained winds to make landfall near New Orleans, it is yet unknown how much damage has been done by these two storms.
Moody’s Investors Services Inc warned that “months” might pass before they can assess this impact on property/casualty insurance companies after barreling into the Louisiana coast early Sunday morning. Hurricane Ida was downgraded to a tropical storm on Monday, but Moody’s still projects that insured losses from Hurricane Ida could reach as high as $25 billion.
The Leading Commercial Insurers in Louisana
Louisiana’s top five commercial property insurers are:
- CNA Financial Corp. ($133 million).
- Liberty Mutual Group Inc. ($87 million).
- Zurich American Insurance Co. ($82 million).
- American Internal Group Inc.($81million).
- Chubb Ltd ($72m)
In Louisiana, the top 10 insurers write a total of $744 million in direct premiums. The industry as a whole writes over one billion dollars ($1.735 billion) in premiums for this state alone, according to Moody’s (Moody’s). If Hurricane Ida hits especially hard and causes long-term power outages or disrupts critical infrastructure, commercial business interruption claims could be “sizable.” In addition to that, private passenger and other insured assets like watercraft may see substantial damage from flooding due to heavy rainfall.
Timeline of Key Events
Tackling the coast of Louisiana, Hurricane Ida made landfall on Sunday afternoon with winds at a speed of 150 miles per hour. It was then downgraded to Cat 3 over six hours later and is now expected to become a tropical depression in Mississippi by late Monday, as Morgan Stanley predicted.
Important Steps to Managing Hurricane Ida Insurance Claims
The Insurance Company Adjuster or “Independent Adjuster” is not the single source of truth.
Business owners should be aware that the adjuster assigned to your claim might not have read over your company’s insurance policy. This is because these contractors handle many different claims for multiple companies, often juggling several at once.
When you receive advice from this person about what their insurer covers parts of a storm or how much coverage there actually is on certain types of damages, it will benefit business owners to double-check with an independent contractor who specializes in property damage rather than just taking the word of someone whose primary job isn’t underwriting policies but instead resolving them after major disasters occur.
Read your business insurance policy carefully.
The contract outlines what the insurer will and won’t cover after a natural disaster, so you need to understand it ahead of time fully. If there’s anything that confuses you or isn’t clear enough for your needs, contact an attorney or a public adjuster who specializes in such matters as soon as possible – they can provide additional insight into how best to prepare yourself going forward and protect yourself and assets.
Document the Timeline Of All Communications With Your Insurance Company.
The process may take a while, but having the right information speeds things along and offers proof if they are disputed later on down the line.
To make sure your insurance claim is processed in a timely manner, document all verbal conversations with emails and letters. This way, you will be able to show any requests made by you or commitments from the insurer throughout the claims process.
The dates that your insurer was notified of your claim and rejected may become important when determining whether they should face penalties under Louisiana law for delaying responses too long.
Begin Preparing a Detailed Proof of Loss.
A proof of loss is a formal written statement submitted to the insurer stating what you believe your losses are.
It should include supporting documentation such as expert reports and other relevant information substantiating your entitlement for funds under the applicable insurance policy.
Due to its importance, businesses often retain public adjusters or lawyers with experience in this process, so hiring one might be an option if you’re not confident about filling it out yourself or don’t have time because of business demands/losses.
Documentation and Records for Insurance Claims
A major part of filing an insurance claim is knowing what information your insurer will need to process it efficiently. Having this information on hand speeds up the reimbursement process, so make sure not to leave anything out.
Make sure to have two copies of every document related to Hurricane Ida damage, including:
- Photos or videos of the damaged building structure as well as any trees or other objects blocking light/access (be aware photos taken after dark should be done so using time-lapse mode)
- Photos or videos of any flooding damage
- Photos or videos of the exterior and interior if Hurricane Ida caused a leak that damaged either area
- Any statements from neighbors confirming damages they witnessed (again, photos are recommended)
- Copies of receipts for repairs you’ve done to date
The insurance company may ask for:
- A list detailing all Hurricane Ida related expenses up until that point, including emergency services like cleaning crews and contractors who have been hired to fix damages
- Proof of ownership or proof that the property owner authorizes you to handle this claim. This can be done easily with a copy of your lease agreement, a letter from your landlord confirming who is allowed to file claims on their behalf, and/or power of attorney documentation if they have given you permission via phone call or email.
Having all necessary documents ready speeds up the insurance claim process, so make sure not to leave anything out when filing an insurance claim after Hurricane Ida causes damage.
Additional Things to Keep in Mind
What business owners should know about the process:
- Deductibles for hurricanes are often substantially higher than normal deductibles in business insurance policies. When hurricanes damage a business (in comparison to other events), the business may have to personally assume tens of thousands of dollars of hurricane-related losses before the insurance company pays. Prepare yourself for the hurricane Ida claims process by understanding your hurricane deductible early.
- Hurricane Ida damage usually needs to be fixed by a licensed contractor.
- Claim adjusters will not always make an effort to educate business owners about their Hurricane Ida insurance claim process.
- Hurricane Ida claims can be complicated expect take up to a year if not managed properly.
The article goes over what needs to be included and how having these items will speed things along once it comes time for reimbursement from Hurricane Ida’s destruction.
Important Louisiana Ruling
Insurance companies adjusting Hurricane Ida claims cannot delay investigation, damage valuation and prompt payment without subjecting themselves to statutory penalties. If an insurer fails to pay undisputed amounts promptly they will be exposed to the consequences of not doing so under applicable laws.
Undisputed amounts owed must be paid within thirty days.
Working with a Public Adjuster to Guide You Through the Insurance Claim Process
Hurricane-related damages can be substantial, and Hurricane Ida was no exception.
Commercial property owners should work with a trusted company to help them navigate the insurance claim process and receive the full settlement due to damage from Hurricane Ida.
Citizens Public Adjusters is a public adjuster that offers free consultations for commercial building owners affected by Hurricane Ida. We would be happy to speak with you and see how best we can help.