My firm has sued insurance companies over the last 15 years for failing to pay or underpaying claims for storm damages to homes and businesses. With a monster storm apparently coming tonight, I would offer my neighbors these basic tips:

1. Take a short video of the storm as it impacts your house, especially if there is hail. You would be surprised the number of cases where we have to hire a meteorologist to prove up the bad weather. (Of course, don't put yourself in danger to get the video).

2. If the storm is bad, hard hit neighborhoods will be invaded by storm chasing roofers. They will knock on your door and tell you they will pay your deductible if you sign up with them. I recommend you don't sign with them. The storm chasers sometimes get the deductible back by doing a poor job using cheap materials and they will be long gone if something goes wrong. Although they will be busy, get a well established (in business for a long time) local roofer.

3. Don't just accept the insurance company's estimate of damage. Get 2 or 3 estimates from local reputable roofers and then present these to the insurance company if they are higher than the insurance company estimate. Keep in mind, it is a crime (a misdemeanor) for a roofer to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. You can do it yourself, you can hire what is known as a public adjuster or you can hire a lawyer. Most people can handle it themselves but sometimes insurance companies get unreasonable and that is where a public adjuster or lawyer comes in.

4. Do emergency repairs to prevent further damage. You have a duty to prevent further damage, if possible. Make sure you document (take pictures) the damage as you are doing the emergency repairs. Usually this involves getting a tarp put on the roof.

5. Finally, take a look at your homeowner's insurance policy. Most policies have a 1% deductible (for example, $2,500 deductible on a $250,000 home) and are actual cash value (ACV) policies. An ACV policy means that the insurance company can deduct any depreciation (wear and tear) when figuring out what to pay you. ... There are higher deductibles (2% or 3%) which can save you money on premiums but then you don't get as much when you make a claim. There are also replacement cost value (RCV) policies which require the insurance company to pay the entire cost to replace the roof and the insurance company does not get to take off depreciation. These are more expensive but usually pay more if there is a claim.

Hopefully the storm misses us tonight and these tips were unnecessary. Stay safe.

Jim M. Zadeh
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Attorney at Law
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