Tornadoes and other severe weather occurrences are an especially real threat for Oklahoma residents. This makes it even more devastating when insurance companies refuse coverage to diligent policyholders whose properties have been damaged and, in some cases, destroyed. An insurer’s bad faith practices can cost homeowners thousands of dollars, so if your property was damaged by a tornado or other catastrophic event, it is important to contact an experienced bad faith insurance attorney who is familiar with this area of the law and can protect your interests.
Potential Property Damage
Damage caused by a tornado is usually related to high-speed winds. For this reason, residents in the path of a tornado are especially at risk of losing a roof or sustaining other structural damage to their homes. Oftentimes, this leaves many homeowners’ possessions open to the elements, resulting in even more loss from water and fire damage.
Tornadoes are likely to cause a wide range of damage, including:
- Damaged siding;
- Shattered windows;
- Foundation damage;
- Plumbing and electrical harm; and
- Cosmetic damage to the exterior of the home.
Preventing damage can be much simpler and cheaper in the long-run than attempting to recover from major loss, so it is important for homeowners whose properties are at risk of sustaining tornado damage to take a few precautions to help protect their homes, including:
- Trimming tree branches near the roof;
- Cutting down weak branches or trees that pose a risk to the home;
- Reinforcing roof shingles with extra nails or with cement for slate;
- Installing straps and anchors to strengthen the structure from the roof to the foundation;
- Retrofitting entry doors to increase wind resistance;
- Incorporating wind mitigation techniques and high wind-rated products during construction or remodeling;
- Bracing the end wall of a gable roof to resist high winds; and
- Replacing gravel or rock landscaping material with shredded bark to reduce the risk of damage from wind-borne debris.
Most homeowners insurance policies cover damage caused by wind, trees, falling objects, wind-driven rain, structural collapse, and tornadoes. However, homeowners insurance policies do not always cover other types of storm-related damage, including:
- Flood damage;
- Food spoilage due to power outages;
- Interior storm water damage when the walls and roof were not damaged;
- Water damage caused by backed-up drains or sewers; and
- Removal of fallen trees if they did not land on and damage the home’s roof or walls.
Those with homeowners insurance policies should review their policies in advance to discover the extent of their coverage.
While an insurance company’s decision to act in bad faith cannot always be predicted or forestalled, there are a few steps that homeowners can take to support their claim, such as:
- Taking photos or video of the damage;
- Collecting photos of the property prior to the storm;
- Making all necessary and temporary repairs in order to prevent additional damage to the property, but refraining from undertaking permanent repairs until an inspection has been completed;
- Saving all receipts from any temporary repairs as well as any costs incurred if a home is deemed unlivable;
- Keeping the names and license numbers of all contractors, adjusters, and inspectors;
- Making a time log of calls made, received, and returned to and from the insurance company;
- Requesting a complete policy from the insurer; and
- Preserving the evidence of the damage until given signed permission by the insurance company that the investigation has been completed.
While property damage can be devastating to a family’s finances, preventing personal injury is of primary importance. Although homeowners may feel helpless in the face of a natural disaster, there are some steps that can help mitigate physical injury, including:
- Preparing an emergency plan;
- Locating the safest area in the building, such as the basement, corridors, and small interior rooms on the first floor;
- Storing extra water and non-perishable foods;
- Purchasing a weather radio; and
- In the event of a storm, keeping all exterior doors and windows closed to minimize the chance that rain and debris will enter the building.
Contact An Experienced Attorney That Can Help
An insurance company’s refusal to cover damage caused by a tornado can take an extreme emotional and financial toll on homeowners. If you sustained property damage in a tornado or during another type of severe storm, it is important to contact an experienced attorney who can protect your interests. Please contact a dedicated member of our legal team at the Bennett Law Firm at 405-272-0303, and we will help you schedule an initial consultation.