One question that you may have if you are faced with Hurricane Ida damage is - how does an attorney determine charges for representing me in my Hurricane Ida insurance claim dispute?
This is a very legitimate question that can have a big impact on whether or not you hire an attorney to represent your interest and get you full and fair compensation for your Hurricane Ida damages. The worry is that you do not want to end up with less money than the insurance company originally offered simply because you hired an attorney!
How Much Does It Cost To Hire An Insurance Claims Attorney?
I cannot speak to how any other insurance claim lawyer charges, but I will describe how I charge for these property damage claims.
I only take a fee on the increased amount received from your insurance company resulting from my involvement in your claim.
Let's look at a simple example:
You have filed a claim and had your property inspected by the insurance company's adjuster. The adjuster comes back with an estimate of damages of $20,000. You think that's too low and send the adjuster your contractor's estimate for $50,000. The adjuster does not agree and sticks to the $20,000.
Two of your options at this point are (1) accept the $20,000 or (2) hire me to fight for the other $30,000 you believe you are due.
If you hire me, my fees will be calculated only on the amount I am able to obtain for you that is above the insurance adjuster's offer you had before you hired me. So, in our example, if I am able to establish that your damages are $50,000 and you are paid the $50,000, my fee would be calculated only on the $30,000 increase obtained on your claim.
I will also fight for any bad faith penalties that may be due to you which can include your attorney fees.
I do not take a fee on the amount of damages that the adjuster was already willing to pay you without my involvement.
Why? First, you received that offer with no assistance from me (or any other attorney). Two, it simply is not right (at least to me). You should not lose money and the ability to repair your property (at least as much as the adjuster sees) by hiring an attorney.
Using our prior example, if at the end of the day the adjuster and/or a court says that your damages were only $20,000, you owe no fee. Simply put, I would not have been successful and should not get paid.
What you should not want is an attorney who will take a fee on the entire amount obtained including the amount offered to you before the attorney was involved. If an attorney does that, you would walk away with less than you were getting before ever hiring an attorney!
I am only paid out of the additional money that you would not have received had you not hired me in the first place.
Costs will also be taken out of the additional amount obtained on your behalf. Costs are not the same as fees. Costs are things like the amount paid to get an estimate or have a certain expert write a report to help prove your damages.
How Do Bad Faith Penalties Factor into Attorney Cost?
For years, insurance companies have collected premiums from home and property owners, and then when needed most, many insurance companies hide behind the “this is so big we can’t possibly respond quickly” lie while the home and property owners actually dealing with the catastrophe are left to try and rebuild their lives without the insurance they were promised when they paid their premium.
Louisiana bad faith insurance laws are designed to protect homeowners from breach of contract by the insurance company including refusal to pay fully and/or delayed payment of valid insurance claims.
If an insurance company is found to have violated Louisiana’s laws and acted in “bad faith,” it can be forced to pay financial penalties of 50% of the amount owed to the insured on top of the damages originally owed on your claim under La. Rev. Stat. § 22: 1892. The insurance company must also pay the attorneys’ fees of the policyholder it wronged.
Under La. Rev. Stat. § 22: 1973, the insured may be awarded further compensation.
Is it Cheaper to Hire a Public Adjuster?
A public adjuster is better suited to work with homeowners earlier in the process than attorneys. It can be reassuring to have someone working with you at that early point as the claim process can be confusing and frustrating. Public adjusters can often create a line item estimate for your claim and will submit it to the insurance company for you.
However if the insurance company has acted in bad faith by delaying or underpaying your claim, an attorney can fight for bad faith penalties AND attorney's fees that you may be entitled to. Public adjusters are not able to negotiate using these penalties as leverage.
And if you are at a standstill with your insurance company and they continue to deny claims for supplemental payment, a public adjuster cannot file suit. In that unfortunate case, you will find yourself paying for the adjuster and an attorney.
When Should I Hire a Lawyer for an Insurance Claim?
If the insurance company is delaying your payments, acting in bad faith, refusing to negotiate, or if there is a big difference between the amount that the insurance company is offering you and the value of your claim, then you should talk to a law firm experienced in hurricane damage claims for a case evaluation.
You did the right thing and purchased hurricane and/or flood insurance coverage. Paying your premiums month after month, year after year. If your insurance company has denied, delayed, or underpaid your claim or acted in bad faith, call us for a free consultation to discuss how we may be able to help you get the compensation you deserve.
If you experienced wind or flood damage and your insurance and have any questions about attorney fees on Hurricane Ida business loss claims, Hurricane Ida homeowner damage claims, Hurricane Ida flood loss claims, or any other Hurricane Ida damage claims, give me a call at 985-240-9773.