We are thankful that Hurricane Irma has passed and that the storm did not cause the kind of damage to the state of Florida that we had anticipated. We hope all of you and your families are safe and sound and that our clients, their families and businesses are, as well.
The new Cypress Insurance Group office had minimal damage and was open Tuesday, September 12th so we could start helping our clients. While our office was closed, our calls were answered by a service center that could provide emergency contact information and relay messages to our office. Many of our agents did not have power at their homes until the end of the week but were answering phones on Tuesday because that is what we are here for!
From the Cypress Insurance Group agents, we’ve seen many acts of kindness, such as checking on others in need, leading volunteer and donation efforts, offering homes and offices as shelter and providing assistance in many small ways. As we reflect on our blessings, we extend our support and sympathy to our clients, friends, neighbors, businesses and communities that did not fare as well. We also hold the people of Texas in our thoughts and prayers as they continue to recover and rebuild after Hurricane Harvey. We are very appreciative, as we know you are, to our first responders, utility workers and those volunteering in the recovery effort.
For those impacted, most of our companies are available for reporting claims online, by phone, email or fax. We know many homes and businesses throughout Florida are still without power, and it may take some time to report claims.
So, how do you get the claims process started?
If your home has ANY damage from the storm, you should report it to your insurance company. Florida homeowners policies have a calendar year hurricane deductible. Even a small covered claim for Irma would be included as part of your deductible for any additional hurricane damage this year.
What should you do while you wait for an adjuster?
Make temporary repairs to prevent further damage but take pictures to show the adjuster and keep receipts of any out of pocket expenses. Do not make any permanent repairs until your adjuster has approved them. Most of our companies have reputable repair companies that can help you with your repairs.
What about water damage?
It depends on where the water came from. If it is rising water that affects more than one property – it is considered a flood. If it is through the roof or window – it could be your home or wind policy that covers the loss.
What about my business?
If you have any damage from the storm, please call our office. There may be more than one company to contact and we want to make sure you benefit from all the coverage options available.
Is there coverage for damage to my car?
Yes, if you have comprehensive physical damage coverage. For example, damage to your car from downed trees and flooding should be covered but the deductible applies.
Our companies are prepared for events like this and they are ready to help you. We have listed our carrier's phone numbers and websites. If you do not know which company you should contact, please call us. We will make sure you have all the information you need to file a claim.
In a catastrophe like Irma, claims will be handled based on severity. The combination of Harvey and Irma means we have to share claims adjusters with Texas. We know YOUR claim is important but we appreciate your patience while catastrophic claims are settled first.
What is the difference between a company adjuster and an independent adjuster?
A company adjuster is an employee of the insurance company. They are familiar with the company’s policy wording and have more authority to handle your claim. Most of them can approve claims and payments quickly. An independent adjuster is hired by one or more companies to help during a catastrophe. They do not have as much authority and usually have to report to a company adjuster for claim approval. They are critical to the catastrophe claims response.
Do I need a PUBLIC Adjuster?
Not really. Our companies have very competent claims adjusters that understand your policy and want to handle your claim quickly and fairly. If you are not happy with your claim payment, your first call should be to us. We will contact the adjuster and act as your representative in the process…because your policy comes with an AGENT. Did you know the public adjuster will actually take part of your claim payment to “help” you?
Do I have to sign an Assignment of Benefits form before I can get my repairs done?
NO!! Signing this form gives the repair company ALL of your rights as a policyholder. A reputable company will work with your insurance company.
Whether you are a client or not, please feel free to contact us with questions, concerns or if you just need a second opinion about your insurance. We also have a FAQ with additional information concerning your claim and how we can help you.
What damage is covered?
All policies are different…do you have a homeowners policy, a condo policy, a separate wind policy and/or a flood policy? Each policy covers your property for different reasons, has different deductibles and different exclusions. This is why you have an agent – call us. We will help you determine which policy may cover your loss and which company you should be reporting your claim to and help you through the process.
My mortgage company said “I am not in a flood zone” so I don’t have a flood policy!
A recent flood map change in Broward County has caused a lot of confusion about flood insurance. If you live in Florida, you are in a flood zone. There are high risk and low-to-moderate risk flood zones. Your mortgage company said “you are no longer required to have flood insurance because you are now in a low-to-moderate flood zone.” This preferred flood zone qualifies for a preferred flood policy which is much less expensive than a standard flood policy. Hurricane Harvey is just the latest proof that we all need flood insurance. Call us to discuss your options!
Can I get disaster assistance?
Disaster assistance is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Individuals can register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or through the FEMA App.
Applicants will need to supply their Social Security number, daytime telephone number, current mailing address and address and zip code of the damaged property and private insurance information. Once registered, you will be given a registration number. Keep that handy.
For more information, call 800-621-FEMA (3362). Those who use TTY can call 800-462-7585. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. EDT seven days a week.
How do I avoid scams?
Be wary of strangers who come to your door claiming to be insurance adjusters or contractors and beware of robocalls asking for insurance payments or personal information. If you suspect fraud, call the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Consumer Services Insurance Consumer Helpline at 877-693-5236.
“Unfortunately, hurricanes often attract scam artists seeking to profit off people in times of crisis,’’ said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which spearheads the Consumer Protection Coalition. “Consumers who sustain damage during the storm should call their insurance company first before signing over the rights of their insurance policy to someone else.”
Hurricane clean-up scams
The FTC is also warning consumers about hurricane clean-up scams.
What if I do not have insurance?
- Verify that repair or removal contractors are licensed and ask to see the license
- Ask for references
- Write down contractors’ driver license and vehicle information like license plate, make and model
- Ask to see their certificate of insurance
- Get a written estimate and sign a written contract
- Pay with a credit card so you can dispute the charges
- If you have second thoughts about the contractor you hired, you have three days to cancel the contract
Check nonprofit groups and DisasterAssistance.gov (run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to see if you qualify for aid.
Cypress has 20 licensed agents that have been through Andrew, Charley, Jeanne, Ivan, Katrina, Wilma, Matthew and now Irma. With every event, we have become more prepared and we hope that the lessons learned and efforts we have made over the years will benefit our clients in their time of need. Although no one can prepare for every circumstance that this unprecedented event may have in store for us and our community, just know we are here to stand alongside you and will be here to help rebuild our community.
Whether you are a client or not, please feel free to contact us with questions, concerns or if you just need a second opinion about your insurance.