Catastrophe Claim Tips
Tue, 2 Jun 2015
If your property is
damaged by a hurricane, tornado, hailstorm or similar disaster, here is what
you should do to assure quick handling of your insurance claim:
1. Assess the damage to the
best of your ability and be prepared to give an accurate description of the
amount and type of damage. Make sure you state whether the premises were
rendered inhabitable as a result of the damages. This will allow your company to
send out an adjuster with the appropriate level of experience, based on the
level of damage.
2. Notify your insurance agent
as soon as possible. The insurance contract requires notification as
soon as possible after a loss. Be sure to leave a telephone number where you
can be contacted and a complete address of the location so the company can get
an adjuster to the scene quickly. Be sure to stay in touch with your adjuster
and respond to calls promptly. Catastrophes can generate hundreds of claims, so
communication and cooperation are vital for a quick resolution to your claim.
3. If debris (such as fallen
tree or downed power line) prevents access to the covered property, or if such
debris could increase your damage, tell your agent when you report the loss.
4. Make whatever temporary
repairs are necessary to prevent further damage, theft, or vandalism. Repairs
of this kind could include boarding up broken windows and covering holes in the
roof with temporary materials. Making temporary repairs is required by the
insurance company, and it is good advice regardless. (Your insurance will
usually cover the reasonable cost of temporary repairs.) DO NOT make permanent repairs to your
damaged property unless the adjuster has reviewed your claim and given you
permission to restore your property.
5. Photograph damaged areas
prior to making temporary repairs if possible. Doing so will strengthen your
claim and help with the presentation of your loss.
6. If you can, get one or two
detailed estimates for permanent repairs from a reliable contractor, and give
these estimates to the adjuster. Beware of “fly by night” operators who often
follow a storm into town. Check with the Better Business Bureau before doing
business with any vendor you don’t know. Keep in mind that public adjusters are
illegal in some states.
7. Refrain from signing any
contract for restoration or repairs prior to discussing it with your company
adjuster. Your adjuster can play a key role in helping you avoid price gouging
after a catastrophe, but he/she won’t be able to negotiate a reasonable price
for services if you already signed a contract.
8. Prepare an inventory of all
damaged or destroyed property for the adjuster. Be sure to keep a copy for your
records, and be sure NOT to discard ANY items before the adjuster is given a
reasonable amount of time to inspect them.
9. Collect cancelled checks,
invoices, receipts or other documents that will help the adjuster place a
proper value on damaged or destroyed property. Keep ALL receipts and invoices
for EVERY expense you incur after the loss, including items such as tarps,
boards, cleaning supplies, etc.
10. It is always a good idea
to read through your policy and review coverage and exclusions prior to a claim
so you will know what to expect. Have a list of your property prior to a loss.
You could have a lot of seemingly insignificant items and supplies, but those
items add up quickly!
Unlicensed and unscrupulous
persons may pose as adjusters or, being an adjuster, may pose a threat to
consumers. Public adjusters, in particular, may pose a problem since they don’t
work for any company or company-adjusting firm. Unlicensed public adjusters
have not demonstrated their competency to adjust claims nor have they posted
the required surety bond. You are encouraged to report any such activity to
local authorities. Also be aware that by contracting with a Public Adjuster,
the insured is authorizing the claim check to be made payable to both
themselves or a mortgagee and the adjuster.
Views expressed here do not
constitute legal advice. The information contained herein is for general
guidance of matter only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.
Discussion of insurance policy language is descriptive only. Every policy has
different policy language. Coverage afforded under any insurance policy issued
is subject to individual policy terms and conditions. Please refer to your
policy for the actual language.