Guest Commentary: Hurricane Wilma damage … Is it too late to collect?

Not yet, but time is running out. When Hurricane Wilma decided to pay a visit to Marco Island on Oct. 24, 2005, she left behind a bill costing residents millions of dollars. Not too nice for an uninvited guest. Kind of like the in-laws stopping by unannounced (note to my wife … I didn’t mean my in-laws).

After the storm passed, property owners began to pick up the pieces and turned to their insurance companies for help. For the most part, claims were settled in a fair and timely manner. What if, however, your insurance company didn’t pay for the entire cost of your loss? What if they only compensated for a roof repair, when you were actually entitled to a complete roof replacement? What if Wilma damage only became noticeable years after the storm?

Most residents think that too much time has passed, or that they must accept whatever amount their insurance company decided was appropriate.

The truth is that you don’t have to automatically accept the decision of the insurance company, and it is not too late to be compensated for property damage that was caused by Wilma. In fact, the State of Florida has given residents a five year period after a hurricane to file (or re-visit) property claims. Personally, I am still helping over 50 owners on Marco regarding Hurricane Wilma claims. Just last week, another client of mine was awarded a full roof replacement for Wilma damage. He was originally awarded a small amount to repair less than a hundred tiles, but the replacement tiles didn’t match the originals and stood out. This gentleman was unaware that he didn’t have to accept a repair that left the roof with a “patched” appearance.

Many people tell me that they are afraid that their insurance company will retaliate against them if they file a claim. In reality, you are protected when filing a hurricane claim. Another misconception is that you forfeit your rights to re-visit a claim once you accept the check that the insurance company gives you. Actually, it is rare for the insurance company to require you to waive your future rights. In the vast majority of cases, re-visiting a settled claim is well within the rights of the claimant.

My point? If you are not happy with the amount that you were paid by your insurance company, it is probably worth getting a second opinion regarding the claim. Also, if there is Wilma damage that has appeared in the months and years since the storm; now is the time to address it. You see, the insurance companies have lobbied hard to cut off the deadline for Hurricane Wilma claims. Therefore, if you have any questions regarding potential Wilma damage or underpayment of previous Wilma damage, I suggest looking into it before it’s too late. You have upheld your end of the contract with your insurance company by paying your premiums; you have a limited time to make sure that they uphold their end.

If you have any questions, I suggest contacting a Public Claims Adjuster. Unlike the insurance company’s adjuster, a public adjuster’s position is licensed by the state to solely represent the interests of you, the property owner. Dealing with insurance companies can be intimidating; that is why Florida decided to level the playing field by creating the position of the Public Adjuster.

With hurricane season upon us, I would like to give some useful tips on how to best protect your assets against any future losses. You never know when Wilma’s irritable cousin might come knocking … but that is for my next article.

Derek J. Cox is a representative of Five Star Claims Adjusting. Call him at (239) 234-9161 or email

© 2010 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.