On Wednesday, October 19, The Law Office of Thomas L. Young, P.A., in conjunction with The Whaley Law Firm in Louisiana, presented a community meeting in St. Augustine where attorneys Tom Young and J.R. Whaley discussed the National Flood Insurance Program as well the homeowners insurance claims process. The meeting was attended by several dozen residents and business owners, both in person at the Hilton Bayfront, and online via webinar from Georgia, South and North Carolina.
Attorney Whaley, a veteran of Hurricane Katrina litigation, shared tips with insureds on what to watch for during the claims adjustment process. Whaley currently represents hundreds of home and business owners in Baton Rouge after that city’s “1,000 Year Flood” which occurred last Summer. He and attorney Young have now sent their resources to northeast Florida and North Carolina to help area residents recover from Hurricane Matthew. The lawyers have created FloridaFloodClaims.com as a resource for Floridians affected by the storm (also NorthCarolinaFloodClaims.com with The Whitley Law Firm and Crouse Law Offices in Raleigh).
During the meeting and webinar the attorneys cautioned insureds to closely scrutinize the damage estimate prepared by the insurance company’s adjuster, as those adjusters are overworked in the aftermath of the storm and may be prone to error. In addition, storm-related damage may not manifest for weeks or even months after the event – rust from saltwater intrusion and settling foundations from flood waters will not be readily apparent. As such, insureds may need to supplement their initial claims with later evidence of loss.
Finally, policy holders were encouraged to seek second opinions from adjusters not employed or otherwise compensated by the insurance company. While most insurers and adjusters are honest operators, the fact remains that insurance companies are in business to make a profit. That dynamic may naturally lead to a bias for undervaluing claims.
Attorneys Whaley and Young both provide independent public adjusters, not beholden to insurance companies, to evaluate their clients’ damaged property. They charge no upfront fee for this service, but do take a percentage of any amount over and above what the insurance company initially offers the insured. “If our team is not able to increase the original offer made by your insurance company, then you owe us nothing.” says Whaley. Concurring, attorney Young added, “In other words, the policy holder bears no financial risk by hiring J.R. and me. We provide an unbiased adjuster to act as a counter-balance to the insurance company’s adjuster. At the end of the day, we are only paid if we are able to convince the insurance company that their adjuster’s estimate was too low. And then we only get a modest percentage of the difference between the insurer’s original offer and the amount finally awarded.”
Whaley and Young are planning another Community Meeting for November 7th from 5-7pm at the Hilton Bayfront in St. Augustine, as well as a-yet-to-be-determined location in North Carolina (stay tuned for NC meeting details). In the meantime, if you missed the October 19th meeting, a recording is available. Please note that you must fast forward to minute 23 when the audio begins.