Facing the Aftermath of a Hurricane: Filing Insurance Claims
Author: FindLaw.com | Friday, Sep 28, 2018
For people caught in the devastation of a hurricane, the initial trauma of the storm is followed by days and weeks of difficult recovery. With considerable property damage to homes and businesses, the weeks after the storm involve surveying the damage and putting the pieces back together, and that includes filing insurance claims.
If your firm or business has been damaged, begin the process of filing an insurance claim by following these steps:
Find Your Insurance Policy
The first step in this process is to find your insurance policy and read it very carefully to determine what is covered under your policy and what is not. Generally, flood coverage is purchased separately and usually through the National Flood Insurance Program that offers coverage through private insurers. People in certain communities more likely to be affected by floods were probably required to purchase flood insurance as a condition of their mortgage.
Importantly, damage in a hurricane or tropical storm can be caused by wind, water, or other sources, so it is important to review your entire policy to see what you have covered. Additionally, review your policy to determine what your deductible is, what procedures are required by your carrier to make a claim, and the time limits for making a claim. Often times, notifying your insurer and submitting a claim form must be done in a relatively short period of time, so do not delay. For flood coverage, the NFIP advises that you need submit a Proof of Loss form to your insurance company within 60 days of the flood.
Note your policy number as well, as you will need this when you call your insurance representative.
Contact Your Insurance Representative
Call your insurance representative immediately and notify them that you are making a claim for damages. Make sure you have your policy number ready to provide to your Agent so that they can open a claim. They will provide you with a claim number, and assign your claim to an insurance claim adjuster who will then contact you to evaluate your damage and most likely do an on-site inspection.
Take Photographs and Video of Losses
It is important to record your damage as soon as possible so that you will be able to prove your claim. Taking pictures and video is extremely helpful so that an insurance carrier’s claim adjuster can see the damage in the state it existed right after the damage occurred. As time elapses, damage can look different, so it is important to capture it as soon as possible. Video can be very powerful testimony down the road.
In addition to photos and video, make a list of everything that was damaged and if possible, write down the approximate value of each and every item. Include the purchase receipts if they can be located. Being organized will make the adjuster's job much easier for them and help make a faster claim settlement for you. The adjuster will be appreciative of organizational efforts on your part, particularly if they are inundated with claims, which they likely will be after a major disaster.
Mitigate Your Damages
An important concept in the law is that you must take efforts to prevent further avoidable damages after an initial incident. Thus, although it is important to preserve all of your evidence, you do want to take steps to prevent further losses that could be avoidable.
In the case of water damage, a big problem will be mold. Therefore, after documenting all of the damage through photos or video, be sure to move any water damaged items and put them outside and clean up water and moisture that remains inside so that mold does not develop. Generally, damage from mold may not be covered under your policy. Advise the claim adjuster that you plan on taking these precautions and ask them if they have any concerns about the same. They can raise any issues at that time, and cannot later object that you disturbed the evidence.
Follow up emails and letters are crucial. You may be making a lot of phone calls with adjusters and any contractors needed for repair and it is important to have all communications documented. That way when delay occurs, you will have a clear trail of what steps were and were not taken, and the amount of time that elapsed throughout the process.
Stay On Top of Your Claim
In our experience, sometimes insurance companies cannot move quickly and delay is commonplace particularly due to the large volume of claims after a hurricane or so other catastrophic event. Stay on top of your claim as best you can, and continue to touch base with your insurance claim adjuster to help keep your claim moving.
We do agree with the old adage that you get more with honey than vinegar, so remaining courteous is important, regardless of how difficult the process may become.
We here at Massey, Clark, Fischer will also do our best to try to help you through the claim process keeping in mind that post hurricanes claim periods are trying times for all of us. Not to mention that often times there is no electricity or phone service available for you, our client, or for our office, and for our carriers. And there are often times 100’s and maybe 1000’s of claims to get processed. We have now been in business for 60 years and together with our client’s we have survived dozens of hurricanes and catastrophic events. Thank you for your business!