Businesses and individuals can take steps to reduce risk from wind and rain of hurricanes and tropical systems.
TREE TROUBLE: Check for dead or week limbs and trunks. If there is tree damage and insurance coverage applies, the property owner will likely be on the hook for a deductible. Businesses and individuals can be liable if a customer, neighbor, or passing motorist is injured by a falling tree or limb.
WATER WOES: Make sure gutters and other drainage systems on your property are working properly. If you have a private dams or are part of an Homeowners Association that owns a private dam, be sure the dam is being inspected annually and that repairs are being made when recommended by professionals. If something on your property blocks water flow or a dam fails and a neighbor suffers flood damage, you could be liable.
DEBRIS DAMAGE: Debris in high winds can cause added damages to your property or the property of others. This is especially true when it comes to things like building materials (think sheet metal and plywood). Make sure items stored outside are secured. If possible, bring them inside when you know a storm is coming.
HOME INVENTORY: If your home or business suffers a catastrophic loss, your insurance company will require an itemized list of all the possessions that were damaged or destroyed. It is incredibly difficult to remember all of the items that you owned after they have been destroyed. Consider creating a home inventory that groups your possessions by room or category. For bigger items, include model and serial numbers. Also, photograph or videotape each item and store that data in a secure location outside of the home. The NAIC has a free smartphone app that can help you create your inventory.
HAVE A PLAN: Have an emergency or evacuation plan for your employees and family. Also, identify the nearest storm shelter. Disconnect appliances that may be damaged by power surges.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s better to be proactive than reactive. Review your policies and meet with your insurance agent or another professional to know what your insurance policies cover and what they do NOT cover. After a loss should never be the first time you review your insurance policy. By then, it’s too late. Remember that your homeowners or business policy will not cover a loss for flood and may exclude windstorm damages. Also, you cannot wait until the last minute to purchase coverage when a storm is about to make landfall. The waiting period can be as long as 30 days, so review your policies in the weeks before hurricane season starts to be safe and provide ample time for any changes in your coverage to take effect.
Wesley B. Sawyer is an associate at Murphy & Grantland in Columbia. His law practice is focused on insurance coverage and bad faith litigation.