Anyone whose home’s been damaged by a hurricane knows the days following the storm can be hazy.
The first and most important step to take after the storm is contacting your insurance provider to begin the claim filing process. It’s important to do this as soon as you’re able, according to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), but to tread carefully when doing so.
“Families will have to dig deeper into their pockets, because insurers have been steadily increasing hurricane wind coverage deductibles and imposing other policy limitations,” said J. Robert Hunter, director of Insurance for CFA, in a statement on Hurricane Matthew, the most recent storm. “This liability shift to consumers may take some by surprise, since disclosures are often buried in renewal paperwork that consumers may not understand or even read.”
It’s important, according to CFA, to keep records of each event in the claims process, especially when making a claim due to a major catastrophe. Keep your claim number handy, and hold on to receipts for repair work or temporary housing. Record brief notes, including dates and times, of all communications with your insurer. Take stock of your belongings as best you can—having a list will help expedite the claims process.
In the meantime, take steps to prepare for the insurance adjustment, CFA recommends. Be sure to get estimates from a few local, reputable contractors for reference before the adjuster arrives to assess the damage—and, remember, you’re not obligated to use a contractor recommended by your insurer. Clarify whether the adjuster is an independent professional or an employee of the insurer—if the former, confirm they’re authorized by the insurer to make decisions related to your claim.
Remain vigilant through the process, as well. Though flooding is not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies, some insurers employ an “anti-concurrent-causation” clause—this means that the insurer will not cover wind damage if flooding occurred concurrently, or at the same time, according to CFA. (Your claim may be denied because of this clause—if that’s the case, consult with an attorney, CFA advises.) Some insurers may also unfairly categorize losses as the result of flooding, rather than high winds.
“Because so many consumers experienced claims problems in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, we urge homeowners dealing with losses caused by Hurricane Matthew to be vigilant with their insurance companies to ensure that they receive a full and fair settlement,” Hunter said.
However, “not all insurance companies handle claims badly, so go into the claims process with an open mind,” Hunter added.
Source: Consumer Federation of America (CFA)
Published with permission from RISMedia.