September 20, 2020, marked Hurricane Maria’s third anniversary of devastating the island of Puerto Rico. Since then, policyholders have overcome many obstacles, but many are still struggling with property damages that have not yet been repaired. Insurance companies are still denying and underpaying Hurricane Maria insurance claims, and yet we must ask: What have we learned?
We have learned that adequate knowledge of the process by policyholders is key before and after a hurricane claim. First, a policyholder should fully understand the coverage and exclusions under his policy. Second, a policyholder should have knowledge of the steps to take to make a proper claim, such as timely reporting damages to the insurer, taking pictures of all damage and trying to mitigate the damage. Policyholders should make their property available for inspections and provide receipts of any repairs made. Last, if the policyholder does not agree with the insurer’s estimate of the damages and/or payment, the policyholder should not accept a check as final payment and request that the insurer reconsider its determination on the claim.
Before Hurricane Maria, no major disaster had occurred in Puerto Rico for approximately 20 years and most policyholders had never filed a claim. Insurance companies in Puerto Rico had never handled so many claims at once either. However, it has been a learning process for both sides of the claims. Most importantly, thanks to many of the lessons learned, new laws and amendments to the Puerto Rico Insurance Code have been made, as discussed in a previous blog post.1 These changes have provided fair and stronger rules for the handling of claims in Puerto Rico (for more details on claims handling, please refer to our blog post on this topic2). It will be a continuing learning process that began with Hurricane Maria three years ago.
1 Julitza Perez. How To File A Complaint With The Puerto Rico Insurance Commissioner Office About Your Delaying, Denying And Bad Treating Insurance Company. Property Insurance Coverage Law Blog, June 18, 2019. Available at: https://www.propertyinsurancecoveragelaw.com/2019/06/articles/insurance/how-to-file-a-complaint-with-the-puerto-rico-insurance-commissioner-office-about-your-delaying-denying-and-bad-treating-insurance-company/
2 Francisco Garcia & Julitza Perez. Puerto Rico: Guide To Unfair Settlement Acts By Insurers During The Adjustment Of Claims. Property Insurance Coverage Law Blog, June 17, 2019. Available at: https://www.propertyinsurancecoveragelaw.com/2019/06/articles/insurance/puerto-rico-guide-to-unfair-settlement-acts-by-insurers-during-the-adjustment-of-claims/