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Preparing for Disaster Insurance War

Some of the devastation from Hurricane Charley, which struck Florida in 2004.

You have homeowner’s insurance and a hurricane hits. The winds and rains come. There is damage to your home. But you know the storm will blow over and you have coverage, so no worries, right?

You could be very wrong, says William F. "Chip" Merlin, Jr., dubbed the "Babe Ruth of Hurricane Lawyers," by the Asbury Park Press for his work on behalf of 23 municipalities and hundreds of policyholders following Superstorm Sandy.

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He warns that preparation for a potential natural disaster like a hurricane or fire should involve more than bringing in the lawn furniture, putting up hurricane shutters, or having a smoke detector or fire extinguisher. It should also include making certain your insurance policy will provide the necessary coverage in the event disaster strikes.

The founder and president of the Merlin Law Group, Merlin has dedicated his practice to representing insurance policyholders in disputes with insurance companies nationwide. In other words, he represents homeowners against the insurance companies to which they have religiously paid their premiums, but that have failed to act in good faith and cover damages incurred.

In this interview with the Lean to the Left podcast, Merlin cautions that many homeowners and business owners fail to even read their policies and have no idea what is, or is not, covered. And all too many insurers unscrupulously try to avoid payment for reasons contained in the fine print that few people read, he says.

The Tampa Bay Times dubbed Merlin "the Master of Disaster" for his nationwide catastrophe work and helping policyholders following Hurricane Katrina. He's the author of a new book, "Pay UP! -- Preventing a Disaster with Your Own Insurance Company."

Some advice offered by Merlin during our Lean to the Left podcast conversation:

  • Call your insurance company immediately -- even during the storm. If you wait until it's over, the wait for an adjuster to show up could be a long one, and that's the first step towards getting paid for your loss.

  • Once you ascertain that your home or business is safe to enter, take photos and videos of everything -- including the immediate neighborhood. It's critical evidence in the event of a dispute.

  • Then, take steps to prevent further damage as much as possible.

  • Consider hiring a public adjuster to make certain you are properly reimbursed by the insurance company. Do not take the word of the insurance company's adjuster.

  • Don't bother taping your windows -- all that accomplishes, he says, is "taping the windows."

There is much more in this interview, co-hosted with me by social justice lawyer and author Mark M. Bello. The episode will also be streamed later on Bello's "Justice Counts" podcast.

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If your insurance company refuses to give you the settlement you deserve, consult a disaster claims attorney and review of your property damage claim

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