Business Damage Claims- Know Your Rights

Your business is your livelihood and also provides jobs to others in your community. When the hurricanes struck, you not only had structural damages and property loss, but you also had business interruption. It is helpful to understand your rights so that you get the most from your settlement.

Understand Your Policy

It is essential to understand your business insurance policy so that you can assess your rights and options. Not all policies are the same, and many have clauses that specifically exclude certain types of claims. For example, a policy may cover wind damage, but not damage from a flood. These types of restrictions could seriously limit your ability to get the compensation you expect after a disaster. Typically, business interruption is covered in a separate clause or policy.

Your policy is a type of contract and indicates how and when to file a claim after a loss, though, the process is similar for most providers. You must file a claim or provide notice that you intend to file a claim as soon after the incident as possible. After you file a claim and provide proof of damages or loss, the company must make a payment within a set period. While the normal time period is 30 days, this deadline may be extended after a natural disaster.

Seeking Outside Assistance

If your insurance policy doesn’t cover all of your damages or if you don’t have insurance, you may be able to obtain assistance through FEMA. The President declared Puerto Rico a disaster area, which means business owners and others are eligible for governmental benefits. One of the benefits is that the IRS postponed some deadlines for business taxpayers. Additional time will be allowed to file a return if you are in the affected area. The extension applies to payroll and excise tax returns as well as estimated income tax payments.

Business owners may also apply for grants or special loans through the Small Business Administration for financial resources to help with rebuilding and repairs. FEMA will not provide compensation for damages that are covered by insurance, so it is helpful to file an insurance claim as soon as possible.

Your Legal Rights

If you do not agree to the settlement that is provided by your insurance provider you have the right to file a dispute. Your policy may also include arbitration or mediation clauses for dispute resolution or an appraisal clause, which allows you to resolve a dispute through a process where you hire an independent appraiser to represent your interests. Your appraiser and the insurance appraiser review the damage and try to come to a resolution with help from a third, neutral appraiser. Either party has the right to request the appraisal process as long as it is requested according to the policy requirements.

If you do not agree with the findings of the resolutions, you may be able to take legal recourse. The law allows you to file a claim if the insurance company acts in bad faith by unfairly denying, unreasonably delaying, and underpaying claims. Your insurance attorney can represent you in the dispute resolution processes and if negotiations fail to produce a satisfactory settlement, ask the court to make a fair and just decision. In general, you must file a lawsuit within a year of the breach. However, there are some exceptions, so it is best to discuss the situation with an attorney to learn more about your legal options.

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