Now that the storm has left the area, it's time to begin the clean up process. I hope that as you are reading this, you avoided any storm damage, and that you have internet and electricity restored. I think it's worth taking a minute to be thankful. As bad as this storm was, it could have been much worse. If you were one of the unfortunate people who had a claim, there are a few tips to make the claims process more tolerable:
Know your policy. Do you have a separate named storm or wind and hail deductible? Are losses to your roof, property, etc...covered at replacement cost or actual cash value? Are the damages significant enough to warrant filing a claim once your deductible is met? Claims can affect your rates, as well as your ability to get coverage in the future, depending on the type of claim. Storm claims usually are not the only reason that a coverage premium might go up on your property, but insurance companies price their products based on their loss experience.
Alert your agent and the insurance carrier, and answer questions regarding the cause of loss. Your independent agent works for you- inquire of your agent about the process of a claim filed under your policy. In general, the insurance carrier will ask a lot of questions to understand what happened. Give them the best answers you can, even if you are not sure about all the details of the loss.
Document, document, document! Under most policies, the insured is expected to make necessary repairs to keep the damage from getting worse. Take pictures before you begin any repairs, and take note even of little things, like if you lost food in your refrigerators due to spoilage.
Meet with the claims adjuster, and begin the process of getting quotes on repairs from fully licensed and insured contractors in your area. The claims adjuster’s job is to determine the approximate value of a claim, and whether it meets the criteria to be reimbursed. At first, he is simply giving an estimate of damages. Keep in mind, that the adjuster’s initial assessment of damages is not necessarily the amount the company will ultimately pay. Furthermore, some adjusters are actually 3rd party contractors, or “storm chasers.” These professionals may not be familiar with your particular geography, or how much repairs may cost in your area. They typically work in tandem with an in-house claims professional to determine your claim settlement.
Agree to a settlement amount and terms under which your carrier will settle your claim. The claims process can take time, and it can involve several different parties. If you have a mortgage, the bank has a vested interest in the property and may have to sign off on the repairs. Banks often hold the insurance payout in escrow and disburse as repairs are made. The most important consideration is to arrive at a shared, common purpose among all the people responsible for making you whole. Agent, adjuster, carrier rep, contractor, and insured should approach the process as a team. For the process to go right, communication is key. Common assurance that everyone desires a fair outcome is paramount. Generally, your insurance company is looking to expediently and fairly process your claim. Litigation and defense in court are not its goals.
Get back to living your life. Most policies have provisions to provide for loss of use, in addition to rebuilding costs. There will be funds to help you adjust while things get back to normal. Your homeowners policy lists this loss of use assistance as Coverage D. Having sufficient loss of use benefit is notably helpful to enduring the days, weeks, and months of recovery from a storm and getting back to normal the right way.
In summation, my feelings on the present storm season and on 2020 in general are the following: This too shall pass…It might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass. If we can help ease the pain, please let us know.