Millions of home and business owners affected by hurricanes Michael and Florence are about to learn whether they made the right decisions in picking their insurance companies.
In Florida alone, CoreLogic estimates, losses due to wind damage from Hurricane Michael — the damage that is typically covered by standard residential and commercial policies — will be between $2 billion and $3 billion. Damage from storm surge, covered under the National Flood Insurance Program, could add another $1 billion in losses.
Meanwhile, residents and businesses in the Carolinas and Virginia hit by Hurricane Florence are dealing with an estimated $1.5 billion in wind damage and as much as $28.5 billion in flood damage. But because many choose not to carry flood insurance, as much as $18.5 billion of that loss is uninsured.
Insurance companies are fanning out across the Southeast in the wake of the storms. The nation's largest property-casualty insurer, State Farm, said it has dispatched its "Weather and Catastrophe Team" — including a fleet of mobile claims offices — to the affected areas. Other carriers have mounted similar responses.
Policyholders will have to navigate a range of issues, including dealing with insurance adjusters to determine the amount of loss and how much of it is covered, as well as contending with the possibility of an extended time without their home or business, all while recovering from the trauma of living through a monster storm. Their insurance company can ease the burden or make it even worse.
"I don't think that companies will be unable to pay claims, but I do think that policyholders will need to be ready for the typical issues and problems that come up in any storm claim — documentation, maybe some delay, maybe some haggling over the amount of coverage you're going to get," said policyholders' attorney Nicholas Insua, a partner at McCarter and English in Newark, New Jersey, in an interview with CNBC's "American Greed."