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Was your home or business damaged during Harvey, Irma or other recent storm?

Nine Tips for filing a storm damage insurance claim

While you are undoubtedly anxious to make your house a home again, a hasty decision now could cost you later. Filing a storm damage insurance claim can be complicated and time-consuming, but it’s imperative that you take necessary measures to recover the full value of your loss under your policy. Unfortunately, insurance companies are increasingly focused on their bottom line and may try and cut corners, especially after large, costly storms like Harvey or Irma.

So how do you protect yourself?

Here are nine storm damage insurance claim tips to help you with your claim.

TIP 1: Contact your insurance company right away.

Insurance companies have a duty to tell you the type of coverage you have and whether your loss is covered under the policy. They should promptly start a claim and schedule a time for an insurance adjuster to visit your home or business to inspect the damage. Every time you speak with an insurance company representative, document the date, time, and who you spoke with.

Remember: Insurance companies often put profit over policyholders and may NOT have your best interests in mind. 

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TIP 2: Assess and document your loss.

No one knows your home better than you. Perform a thorough walk-through of your property. Look everywhere for damage. Do shingles have loose corners? Are bricks missing? Do you have water-damaged carpet?

Make a list of damaged and missing items and document their current value. Group similar items by room and provide descriptions to support the quality. List high-value items separately and provide information to support the value (i.e. credit card statements, cancelled checks). Our home inventory checklist will help you get started.

Take photos and videos to document the damage to the personal property on a room-by-room basis of the grouped personal property items. If available, take photos of model and serial numbers on high-value items.

TIP 3: Mitigate, or prevent, further damage.

Stop anything from causing more damage to your property, but resist the urge to do a major clean-up or make large or permanent repairs prior to speaking with your insurance company.

Document all repairs and keep receipts of any expenses related to repairs, including tarps, tape, lumber and gas.

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TIP 4: Keep thorough records of anything you spend.

If you needed to spend money to make immediate repairs to your home or to mitigate further loss, be sure to track those expenses. If your home is uninhabitable, keep track of your additional living expenses (ALE), which may also be covered under your policy. Our spreadsheet can help you track and manage your additional living expenses.

TIP 5: Be prepared for the insurance adjuster’s visit.

When the adjuster comes to assess your damage, be ready with the following items to support your claim:

  • List of damages, including approximate values
  • Photos and video of your damage
  • Copies of receipts for expenses incurred to date

Also, ask your contractor to come to your home when the insurance adjuster is there. Hopefully, the adjuster and contractor’s damage estimates are in line with each other and you will receive a full and just settlement to repair your property damage. If not, be prepared to obtain more estimates and challenge your insurance company. Important to remember: the insurance company adjuster is not working for you… they’re working for the insurance company.

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TIP 6: Keep a claim notebook.

It’s really important to stay as organized as possible when making an insurance claim. Start with a claim notebook so you can keep everything in one place. Be sure to document:

  • Names, numbers and emails for your insurance company contacts.
  • Notes from every phone conversation you have with your insurance company, including the name of the person you speak with, date of the conversation and issues you discussed.
  • Recap of your insurance adjuster’s visit, including their name, the date and notes about the inspection
  • List of any expenses you’ve incurred to date, including copies of all receipts

TIP 7: Choose your contractor wisely.

Don’t hire the first contractor who comes to your door ― or the first contractor recommended by your insurance company. Make sure the contractor you hire to repair your damage is reputable, established, licensed, bonded and insured. Ask your contractor for a copy of their state license and their insurance and bond certificates. Be wary of out-of-state “storm chasers” ― contractors who swoop into town after a big storm. Once you settle on a contractor, ask them to give you a written repair estimate after a thorough inspection of the damage. See more tips for hiring a reputable contractor.

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TIP 8: Know how to recognize insurance bad faith.

Insurance companies have a duty to act in good faith when settling insurance claims. Simply put, they can’t look for ways to cut corners or cheat you out of full and just compensation for the losses covered under your insurance policy. Insurance company obligations to policyholders include:

  • Promptly responding to your claim
  • Performing a thorough, objective investigation
  • Informing you of all coverage issues
  • Paying or denying your claim in writing
  • Preparing detailed repair estimates
  • Providing you with all needed forms
  • Paying any and all undisputed amounts that are owed

If you believe your insurance company is not treating you fairly, consider contacting an experienced insurance attorney to review the language of your insurance policy, assess the damage to your home or business and evaluate the reason for your insurance company’s decision.

TIP 9: Have a backup plan in the event your claim is denied, delayed or underpaid.

If your insurance company denies your claim, offers an unreasonable settlement or delays your payment, know that you still have options for receiving fair compensation for your loss. Your backup plan should include speaking with an experienced insurance attorney to review your claim and determine if you have grounds to fight the insurance company for the maximum compensation allowed under your policy.

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Questions? Contact McDonald Law Firm today: 855-702-9061

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