“I’ve never seen anything like this,” property insurance attorney Galen Hair uttered in shock as he drove through a neighborhood in Fort Myers, FL, one afternoon in late September of 2022. Hurricane Ian had just ravaged Western Florida, prompting Mr. Hair and team to set up camp in nearby Port Charlotte and help the American Legion distribute food.
This wasn’t Hair’s first major hurricane. He’d previously volunteered in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated much of southeast Louisiana. Hair and his team helped residents of southwest Louisiana get back into their homes after Hurricanes Laura and Delta, and became a hurricane survivor himself when Hurricane Zeta hit his home in 2020.
For most people, that would be enough hurricanes for a lifetime. But Hair has made supporting communities in the aftermath of hurricanes his business. The property insurance attorney and owner at Insurance Claim HQ, a New Orleans-based law firm, helps individuals and companies fight insurers who refuse to cooperate when disaster strikes.
When Disaster Strikes, They Strike Back
If you’ve ever had to deal with filing insurance claims after a hurricane, you know that the insurers are not on your side.
Hair puts it bluntly: “Insurance companies have a history of denying, delaying, and underpaying claims, which makes the recovery process even more difficult.”
It’s not personal. Insurance is a business, and businesses must make money. These companies simply can’t turn a profit by paying out claims in full. Cataclysmic events the size of Hurricane Ian threaten insurance companies with bankruptcy. They cannot afford to be compassionate.
Where insurers bail, Insurance Claim HQ comes through. “The team here at ICHQ have one driving mission—to help those in need,” said Hair. In 2021, only a year after opening for business, he and his colleagues had helped over 1,200 families and several churches rebuild their lives and property. They call this “striking back” at insurance companies.
Working for Insurance Claim HQ isn’t a typical air-conditioned desk job. The firm only handles insurance cases, and it takes them seriously. The team routinely visits disaster-ravaged locations to collect evidence of hurricane impacts and aid relief efforts, like on their latest trip to Fort Myers, FL.
“A lot of these people had no home to go back to or were living in not the most suitable conditions at home. But their resilience in the face of disaster is unparalleled,” he said.
Facing Up to the Long-Term Impacts of Hurricanes
When the immediate relief efforts after a disaster are over, it’s time to start thinking long-term. Unfortunately, this is something many of Hair’s clients struggle with.
“Recovery is going to take a long time, so people should be patient,” stated Hair. “That’s extremely difficult when you’re not able to get back into your home for weeks, months, or even longer.”
Then there’s the added difficulty of facing the insurance companies. Hair believes it is in most people’s best interest to hire a property casualty attorney to help them with the claims process. The stress of the situation, the insurers’ tricks, and people’s own lack of knowledge stack the odds against them in the absence of professional help.
“A lot of people are unaware of what’s written in their homeowners policy, or they simply don’t understand the confusing language in those policies,” he said.
Policyholders also don’t always realize they may be able to make a business interruption claim. Business interruption coverage kicks in when property damage due to a covered event, such as a hurricane, causes your business to suspend operations temporarily. The damage could be to the business premises, to another property that prevents employees or customers from entering your business, or such that it causes the government to shut down an entire area.
Hair warns that property owners cannot seek compensation for the physical damage itself. However, they can typically recover lost income and profits, utilities, rent, payroll expenses, ongoing tax requirements, small business loan payments, and other business expenses.
Another key detail policyholders often miss is that business interruption claims in Louisiana have a waiting period before the coverage kicks in. The average waiting time is between 48 and 72 hours but can go up to 30 days in some cases.
Whether Floridians choose to pursue a business interruption or another type of claim, Hair believes the essential thing to remember is that property owners have rights. Protecting these rights may take some effort and the help of an experienced insurance attorney. With Hair’s boots-on-the-ground mentality and caring, sympathetic approach, many homeowners can lessen the long-term impacts of hurricanes.
About Galen Hair
Galen M. Hair, Owner at Insurance Claim HQ, is a property insurance attorney who has helped over 1,200 families rebuild their homes and businesses. He has been rated a Super Lawyers Rising Star and voted one of the National Trial Lawyers Top 100. Click here to learn more about protecting your property from disaster: http://www.insuranceclaimhq.com