TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The damage in Florida from Hurricane Ian is extensive but what if you think you have only a little damage? Should you still file a claim?

Some homeowners worry using their insurance will be used against them. 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi has the key things you need to know to help you during the claims process.

The goal is to make sure you get what you’re owed but at the same time, prevent the type of rampant fraud that drives up costs for all homeowners.

“File a claim, file a claim,” said Barry Gilway, the CEO of Citizens Property Insurance, the state’s insurer of last resort.

It’s unexpected advice. An insurance CEO urging you to file an insurance claim.

By law, you have two years. The deadline for Hurricane Ian is Sept. 27, 2024.

But Mr. Gilway says you should do it now, even if you think your claim amount is less than your deductible.

“You may find later there’s undiscovered damage, which might potentially get you above that hurricane deductible,” said Gilway.

You’ll also likely exceed your deductible if we get hit with another storm this season and your home is damaged a second time. Mr. Gilway says you want to document the damage in the first event to get a cash payment after the second event.

“Critically important, we’ve got a history of having multiple storms in one season,” said Mr. Gilway.

Some storm victims tell 8 On Your Side they’d rather pay out-of-pocket. They’re concerned that if they file a claim, down the line, they’ll see higher rates or lose their coverage altogether.

“Is that true?” asked Investigator Mahsa Saeidi.

“Not really. I think if it’s a hurricane claim, it’s very very different than if it were a standard water damage claim,” said Mr. Gilway.

“The Ian claim would certainly not count against a consumer,” said Joe Petrelli, the president of Demotech.

Mr. Petrelli is responsible for rating most Florida insurance companies.

Mr. Petrelli and Mr. Gilway both urge homeowners to deal directly with their insurance company and, for now, avoid using an attorney or public adjuster.

“I’m just hopeful that consumers will give the insurance companies time to respond,” said Mr. Petrelli.

“If you have a total loss, we pay the total loss, and then a public adjuster comes and along and says, ‘oh, you owe me 10% of that.’ So you’re giving away 10%,” said Mr. Gilway.

Mr. Gilway said in his experience, more than nine times out of 10, a homeowner will get what they’re owed if they deal directly with an insurer.