There have been thousands of people impacted by Hurricane Michael in a life altering way. I have had several friends and former/current clients in the area reach out to me and ask basic insurance questions on how to handle their insurance claims post-storm. I have included a basic check list below of “to-dos” when facing an insurance claim.
Please use this as a starting off point. It is intended to be quick to understand and easy to read. If you have detailed questions about coverage of damage, or conditions that the insurance carrier is placing on you, please contact a legal professional or licensed public adjuster. This is especially true before you sign an Assignment of Benefits or a Release of you claim!
·Report your claim to your insurance carrier ASAP! If you don’t know who your carrier is or how to reach them, reach out to your insurance agent who sold you the policy. Call the hotline for reporting your claim directly to the company. Reporting your claim only to you agent will not be the fastest way to report.
· Hurricane Deductibles are listed on the declarations page either as a stated amount or a percentage of Coverage A Dwelling. If Coverage A is $100,000, your deductible will be either 2%, 5% or 10% of that number ($2,000, $5,000, etc.). You will likely not have to pay out of pocket for your deductible to the carrier. If you are asked to pay any amount to the carrier, contact a professional to explain this to you. Deductibles will usually reduce the amount the carrier owes you.
Try your best to stop additional damages from occurring. If your roof or walls have holes in them, try and tarp them. You have a duty to mitigate your damages.
·Allow the field adjuster to inspect the property as many times as they need to.
Your policy requires this access. If it gets overly burdensome, call an insurance claims professional (first party property insurance attorney or licensed public adjuster).
Don’t rely on the insurance company to fully document your damages. Take your own photos and make inventory lists of items damaged. Pictures are worth a thousand words. Photographs will show water damage before mold sets in. This is important on your claim. Document the damages yourself!
·Start listing all contents that you are throwing away, or that were damaged . It is always best to not throw anything away until the insurance company has inspected the items. However, if you cannot wait, list the item, the year you bought it and what you believe it would cost to replace. Take photos of the items before you throw them away. Save any manuals for large electronics or appliances to prove you owned them and the year, make and model.
·Most Homeowner Policies have Additional Living Expenses to provide for a new place to live while you rebuild your lives . This can be tens of thousands of dollars that are at your disposal. It is listed under “Coverage D” on your policy’s declarations page. If you are in need of housing, submit your lease to your insurance carrier and request reimbursement. This is also be true for “fair rental value” if your tenants are forced to move out. Keep all receipts for things you have to buy because you have nowhere to live, or cook your meals, such as restaurant receipts.
· Insurance Advances are not a final resolution of your claim. If your carrier offers you an “advance” of $5,000 or $10,000, this is usually only a start of the claim process. Please read everything you sign carefully. If you are unsure, please contact a claims professional or attorney specializing in first party property insurance claims. Your claim payments should not come with a requirement to sign a “Release”.
· Beware of Mitigation companies offering to help. A lot of them are good people offering wonderful service and will bill the insurance carrier directly. However, if your home is a total loss, the funds will be wasted and will just reduce the amount you are owed under your Coverage A Dwelling amount.
Vanessa Ross is a first party property insurance attorney representing only property owners to assist them in achieving favorable results against their insurance companies. She has analyzed and litigated literally thousands of insurance claims on behalf of insurance companies and now brings her knowledge and experience to the consumer. To contact Vanessa and discuss any coverage issue, she can be reached at 941-217-7580 or by email at [email protected].