Hurricane Fraud: What Are Storm Chasers & Why Should You Avoid Them?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 20, 2013

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A hurricane hits and damages not only your house, but thousands of others in the same area and there are simply not enough contractors to go around. Enter the storm chaser. Rolling in and out of town like a tumbleweed, he’ll fix your home quickly and perhaps cheaply, but probably not correctly as he’s not likely to be licensed or bonded. Hurricane insurance fraud lawyers say homeowners should always stick with local contractors.

Attorney R. Jason Richards

R. Jason Richards, a Florida attorney whose firm represents victims of hurricane fraud and bad faith insurance practices, explained why homeowners should avoid storm chasers:

Contractors from out of town, who we call ‘storm chasers,’ will roll into town like tumbleweeds. So when you have damage to your home, one of the first things you should do is contact a local contractor immediately. You need to get in line because those contractors are going to be very busy after a storm hits. If you don’t contact them right away, you may find yourself 200th on the list and they may not be able to get in to do the repair work on your house for some time, in which case further damage and residual effects may occur.

What happens, realistically, is that the insurance adjuster is the first one that comes out, generally several days after the event occurs. They perform a damage estimate and then the policyholder starts looking for a contractor to fix the damage. That could be weeks after the insurance adjuster has come up with his or her adjustment. That’s going to be too late in many cases because you’re simply going to have to get in line and the local contractor may say that he can’t work on your house at all or that it will be months before he or she can get to it.

At that point, the homeowner gets anxious, wants to get their home fixed and ends up hiring a fly-by-night “storm chaser.” They’re not licensed; they’re not bonded. They register online with the state to be able to work temporarily in the state. In most cases, they come in and do a shoddy job and the homeowner ends up with shoddy repair work and a contractor who can’t be found later to answer for it. It’s not a good situation.

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