(WSVN) - Many people who had damage from Hurricane Irma have since recovered, but many others are still fighting to get their insurance companies to pay for repairs — nearly two years later. That includes one South Florida woman whose son is battling cancer as they live in a house filled with leaks. It’s tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Twenty-three months ago, Hurricane Irma hit South Florida.
Twenty-three months ago, Maria Yzquierdo’s life began to fall apart.
Maria Yzquierdo, no repairs from Hurricane Irma: “Irma destroyed my house. I have now like 12 leaks.”
As the months passed, the leaks became streams.
Plastic covers the roof, but it doesn’t matter. Every time it pours outside, it pours inside.
Maria Yzquierdo: “I even have rats in my house now due to the leaks.”
Maria had filed a claim with her insurance company right after the hurricane.
When they denied her, like many South Floridians, she hired an attorney to sue to get the insurer to repair her house.
Andrew Vargas, attorney: “Maria has done everything by the book. She went out, made sure that she got an insurance policy that protected her home that had coverage for a hurricane.”
As we approach two years after Irma, those 12 leaks in Maria’s house have become 12 nightmares.
The ceiling is so soaked it has collapsed in several places.
Now in the rainy season, some days you can wade through the water on the floor.
Mold is not only inside the walls, the holes show the trusses are even black with mold.
Maria Yzquierdo: “Bad. Very smelly.”
The smell is horrible for Maria and her three sons, but there is something even worse going on than the water and mold.
Maria’s 13-year-old son is battling cancer.
Maria Yzquierdo: “It’s bad because it’s affecting my son that has cancer. Stage 2 non-Hodgkin’s. It affects his lungs. I don’t think it’s fair for him.”
Maria doesn’t have the money to move her family into a hotel, and when she brings her son home from chemotherapy, walks in to see this, her frustration at her insurance company turns to fury.
Maria Yzquierdo: “That I hate them, and due to them, I’m stuck in this hole.”
But like so many other South Floridians, her case is slowly dragging through the courts, leaving this family living in this.
Maria Yzquierdo: “I get very depressed just seeing the way he feels, and he gets really sad. I’m not asking for anything that I’m not entitled to.”
Well, Howard, legally do people who have hurricane insurance have to live like this for months and even years?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “Sadly, this case is not unique. It’s happening to a lot of South Floridians, and even though this case has a child battling cancer, the insurance company can do what they are doing. The strategy of many insurance companies is to drag it out, wear you down and then right before the trial, they believe you will be willing to settle for less than your claim is worth, and it’s all legal to do that.”
I contacted the insurance company that Maria has. They did not respond to my emails.
Maria’s attorney did bring in a contractor to do emergency temporary repairs. Sheet rock over the holes in the ceilings and a new tarp over parts of the roof to try and stop leaks on one side of the house.
So far, it’s working.
Maria Yzquierdo: “At least they’re trying to help me out, so the water doesn’t keep coming in.”
Her son’s bedroom is still so leaky Maria moved him into the living room.
In the meantime, in September, her attorney is going to ask a judge to set the case for trial immediately to try to get this resolved.
Maria Yzquierdo: “I hope so, but it’s taken two years, and things have gotten worse and worse, and I don’t see the day that this is going to be resolved.”
Good luck, Maria, and, of course, to your son in his battle with cancer.
Now, a couple of suggestions if you are still fighting your insurance company over Hurricane Irma damage. Bug your lawyer to get a judge to set a trial date as soon as possible, or ask a judge to order mediation to hope to things can be settled there. That’s about all you can do.
Problems raining down on you? Through the roof trying to fix them? Contact us. Let us storm in and see if we can patch things up for you.
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