Did your home or business suffer damage in a natural disaster—a hurricane, tornado, flood, or fire? Do you feel that you’ve received proper assessments and compensation from your insurer?
In recent years, natural disasters seem to have become more extreme, and they are often exacerbated by conditions that the average person has no control over—failing levees or overdevelopment, for example. If you’ve been confronted by a shocking level of damage to your property, home, or business, you may need every penny you’re entitled to.
You’ll want to take the following steps:
Understand your coverage. If you still have your policy documents, and you have not already done so, read them so that you understand what is and is not covered. Most home insurance policies, for example, do not cover flood damage, unless you buy additional flood insurance.
Contact your insurer. Do this as soon as possible. Remember that they will be getting many calls at this time and will need to prioritize. If they damage to your property is extensive, say so; they may want to examine the properties with the most damage first.
Document the damage. Take photos or make videos showing damage to buildings, interiors, vehicles, and even personal items.
Make a list of missing or damaged items. Sometimes valuable items are carried away by weather events or taken out in the initial trash-clearing because of extensive damage. Think through the items that were on your property and list anything valuable that’s missing. Where things are damaged beyond repair, take photos before throwing them away.
Prevent further loss or damage. Cover holes that could allow rainwater to enter. Board up broken windows or doors. Do not make permanent repairs until the insurance company has seen and assessed the damage. If you must remove items or take other steps to ensure safety, document the situation first.
Keep all information together. Write down your claim number, for quicker service on later calls. Gather receipts, such as credit card statements showing the dates of purchase and prices of lost or damaged items. Store records of expenses your losses have forced you to incur, such as bills for hotel rooms, meals, or car rentals.
Keep records of your contacts with your insurer. Record the date and time. Take down the names of the people you spoke to and what was said. File any correspondence the company sends you, such as letters or e-mails.
Begin pricing permanent repairs or replacements. Ask reliable, licensed contractors for bids. Get more than one bid for significant tasks, such as roof work or fallen tree removal. Have copies ready for your insurance adjuster.
It’s important to be proactive. When a disaster occurs and extensive claims are made in a single area, an insurance company may be tempted to cut corners to minimize its losses.
How much you receive for your losses will vary according to the terms of your policy, the method of calculating value, and other factors.
For example, if your sofa is ruined, the insurance company will not reimburse you for the full purchase price of an identical new sofa. The value of the sofa will be reduced by the number of years you’ve owned it. (Some recent class action suits have claimed that insurance companies should take into consideration not just the age of the item but its condition, but if your insurer has never done that, that may be a separate battle.)
If you were in a hurricane or other event and it was declared a national disaster, you may be entitled to federal funds in addition to your insurance reimbursements. The per-person amounts may be modest, however, so you will still need any amounts due to you from your insurance company.
If you have recently suffered from a natural disaster, and you feel that you have not received proper compensation from your insurance company, we’d like to know what your experience was. Fill out the form on this page to have an attorney take a free look at your case.Article Type: Investigation