As we saw during last year’s hurricane season and still a full year later, being the victim of a devastating storm can be life-altering. One of the unfortunate after effects that we see as Miami hurricane damage lawyers are scams that surface and further victimize hurricane victims.
Fraudulent Activity After the Storm
Having repairs done after a storm requires diligence and patience from the homeowner. After a disaster, insurance companies and contractors will be extremely busy. But fraudulent adjusters and contractors, “storm chasers”, will be out in full number. Especially when insurance adjusters are already spread thin, these type of scammers recognizes a ripe opportunity to target unsuspecting homeowner.
Report Fraudulent Activity
Last year after Irma, the National Center for Disaster Fraud in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Puerto Rico and Florida formed task forces in order to combat this type of fraud. They urged homeowners to report any suspected fraudulent activity with regard to charities and other disaster-related fraud. But many homeowners are still taken in by these unethical practices with each weather disaster. Some activities reported after Irma were:
- Fraudulent submission of claims
- Impersonation of law enforcement officials
- Fraudulent charity solicitations
- Fraudulent investment opportunities
- Price gouging
- Theft and looting
- Identity theft
It is important for storm victims to remain vigilant at these times. If someone comes to your door after a storm claiming to be an insurance adjuster, never invite them in. Ask for company credentials and call your insurance company to verify the identity of the adjuster. Never give them any money,
Your first impulse may be to hire the first contractor who comes along but this is the time to be even more discerning than usual. Never pay for work with cash. Pay with credit cards or checks in order to keep an ongoing paper trail. Never pay for work upfront no matter how much the contractor says that it is required. After devastating storms, fraudulent contractors will be here today, gone tomorrow — with your money.
Hiring a Contractor
When looking for a reputable contractor, get several estimates and do your homework. Read reviews and get personal recommendations. It is also helpful to go to DisasterAssistance.gov to get the name of a government-approved contractor.
Get all your estimates in writing and make sure to get a written Independent Contractor Agreement that will set out the cost and scope of work. It should set out the timeline that the contractor thinks it will take, start date, and any type of payment agreements. Never allow your contractor to begin work until you have received your settlement from the insurance company.
When dealing with your insurance company, know that their offer can be negotiated. Although your adjuster represents the company, you want to keep in mind that your adjuster’s word isn’t the final word in anything. If you are faced with an insurance adjuster telling you that repairs are not covered or that they will only use their contractor or that contractor’s estimate, you have the right to ask for a second opinion or mediation of the claim depending on the policy.
If you need insurance claim assistance after damage due to a hurricane, call the Miami hurricane damage lawyers at Korin Law, P.A. for a free consultation in order to understand your rights.