For the second time in less than eight months, southeastern Louisiana has been struck by severe weather that has left immense damage and devastation in its path.
A total of six tornados tore through Louisiana on Feb. 7 with speeds as high as 150 mph, leaving tracks as long as 23.3 miles, according to the National Weather Service.
The weather system included two EF-3, one EF-2, two EF-1 and one EF-0 rated tornados that ravaged Livingston, Ascension, St. James, St. Tammany and Orleans Parishes injuring at least 33 people and damaging more than 700 properties.
For many, the recovery had just begun from the Louisiana Flood of 2016, which drenched countless homes and business in 25 inches of rain within one week.
As property owners begin to assess the latest damage and begin repair work, there are several things that should be kept in mind when dealing with insurance companies and contractors.
Those who experienced damage from the tornados, should reach out to their insurance companies immediately to file claims for damages. Tornados are covered under a homeowner’s policy as “acts of God” and should not affect your premium.
It is important that you know what your policy covers and if there is a deductible that must be met before your coverage kicks in.
You can minimize your losses by covering any holes in your walls or roof to prevent additional water damage or mold.
It is critical that you take photos and document all of the damage you have experienced. Take photos before you begin and throughout the clean-up process to show the full extent of your losses.
Flooded Commercial Property
Flood victims with commercial properties who do not have flood insurance may have other coverages within their insurance policy that still apply. You may have valid claims for:
Business interruption coverage
Power interruption coverages
Sewer back-up coverage
Inland marine coverages
All of these coverages should be available in the absence of flood insurance coverage.
Commercial property owners should check their policies and coverages very carefully and submit proof of damages to their insurers under each coverage that is not excluded in the absences of flood insurance.
Hiring a Contractor
Prior to hiring a contractor to do the repair work on your property, make sure to do your research:
Make sure they are licensed, insured and bonded. You can check with the State online and ask to see proof from the contractor. You can also call the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the contractor.
Check with neighbors, friends or coworkers for recommendations for contractors they have used before.
Get written estimates from several firms. If there is a difference in price, ask if there is a reason.
Ask for a list of references from the contractor.
Get a written contract that is clear and concise and includes the who, what, where, when, how and cost of your project.
After a devastating storm, property owners should be on the look-out for scams. Signs of a scam can include:
Asking for payment for everything up front
Asking you to get required building permits
Pressuring you for an immediate decision
Only accepting cash payments
Offers a lifetime warranty
Once you have hired a contractor, keep detailed records of every aspect of the project, including phone calls and other correspondence and photos of the job progress.
Once the job is complete, do not make any payment or sign an affidavit or final release until you are completely satisfied with the completion of the project.
If you feel that you have been scammed or ripped off by your contractor or if your insurer refuses to cover a valid claim, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Our insurance lawyers have decades of experience working with insurance companies and can help make sure they cover the full costs you are owed.