Hurricane Irene's destruction has left many people facing extensive property damage. Individuals who must file a claim have several things to do. First, make any emergency repairs that are necessary to prevent further damage. Don't attempt any non-emergency repairs until an insurance adjuster is able to assess the property. Be sure to take clear photos of the damage. Next, contact an individual insurance agent. If the number was lost in the damage, consult the Insurance Information Institute's list of claim phone numbers for various insurance companies. Before contacting an agent, consider the following common questions and valuable claim tips.
1. What To Do After Filing A Claim
The most important thing to do is prevent further damage. Make sure property is secure, board broken windows, dry carpets and board damaged roofs. Don't attempt any major non-emergency repairs until an adjuster can see the damage. Keep receipts for emergency repair supplies and temporary accommodations.
2. How To Speed Up The Claims Process
Keep in mind that priority is given to the most severe cases after a disaster. Larger claims are settled in steps. Try these following tips to help make the claims process quicker:
•Get at least two repair estimates for the adjuster to review.
•Take pictures of the damage. If photos of the property before the damage are available, make copies of them.
•Construct a list of all damaged property. Include a description, original cost, age, purchase location and estimated replacement cost of each item. If receipts are available for any of these items, make copies of them.
3. What To Do If The Property Is Uninhabitable
Remember that most homeowners policies cover extra living expenses resulting from hurricane damage. As long as the policy has provisions for hurricane damage, the company should provide reimbursement for living expenses. If unsure whether this is included, consult the policy to review the exact provisions. Remember to keep all costs in line with regular living expenses.
4. Food Spoilage Due To Power Outages
Unfortunately, most policies don't cover spoiled food. However, some companies provide limited coverage for food that spoils during a power outage. The amount is usually between $250 and $500.
5. Coverage For Fallen Trees
Unless a tree damages a house, fence or garage, there is no coverage for damage to trees resulting from perils of weather.
6. Damage From Power Surges
When the power comes back on after an outage, surges often damage electronics or other equipment. Most insurance policies have a provision for sudden or accidental damage from artificially generated electrical currents. This excludes computer chips, transistors and some similar items. This means televisions and computers are excluded.
7. Claim Checks That Aren't Enough
It's important to understand whether cash value or replacement costs are awarded. If the amount received is lower than expected, consult an agent to discuss individual provisions.
8. When To Expect A Check
After the adjuster visits and assesses the damage, he or she completes the paperwork for processing. Once it has been processed, the carrier issues a check to the claimant. The turnaround time for receiving a check varies depending on how many claims are being processed. Some companies provide status reports for claim progress. If the check is slow to arrive, call an agent to see if the company has any progress reports on the claim.
9. Understanding The Difference Between Replacement & Cash Value
Replacement cost is the amount it costs to replace or repair an insured item today. It doesn't cover the full original value of the item. The only limits are based on the amount of coverage purchased. Cash value policies pay for the cost of replacement of the item minus depreciation.
10. What "Underinsured" Individuals Should Do
Keep in mind that agents are busy. If a copy of the policy is available, try to find the answers in the document before making a call. However, if there are questions that the policy provides unclear answers about, be sure to contact an agent. It's important to file hurricane claims as quickly as possible.
Sometimes an agent tells an individual that they don't have enough insurance. This is usually because homeowners don't review their coverage regularly. Adding a room or making another change can have a significant impact on a policy. Be sure to contact an agent when any improvement or change is made to the home.