bernstein blog

How to make a storm damage claim
September 24, 2014 08:09AM EST

9.24.14_BernsteinBlog-StormDamages2Strong summer storms have rocked the Midwest (the east coast and southwest), leaving destruction in their wake. While most homeowners or renters have some kind of property insurance to make them whole after a natural disaster, these policies don’t activate themselves. There are positive steps to take after a heavy storm wreaks havoc.

  1. Start immediately. The old saying goes that there is no time like the present and this is absolutely true of an insurance claim. As soon as it is safe to do so, contact your insurance company and let them know you’re filing a claim. Insurance policies have a time limit for making claims. By the same token, a storm big enough to damage your house probably damaged other people and the insurance company will be taking a lot of calls from a lot of policy holders.
  2. Document everything. While you’re contacting your insurance provider, take pictures of all damage to your property. If a branch has fallen on your roof, get pictures of the outside and inside of your house—wherever damage has occurred. It also helps to have a catalog of pictures of your property in an undamaged state to offer as comparison.
  3. Get quotes. Start calling contractors who do the kinds of repair work you need and have them write estimates to fix your property. Get multiple quotes, at least three companies. Get specialists where necessary—general contractors can estimate repairs to a roof or interior wall accurately but a HVAC company will be required to estimate your furnace or AC system. In the case of an auto claim, not many repair shops will do an on-site estimate so get a wrecker to haul your car to an auto shop as soon as you can.
  4. Keep close to your contractor. Make sure you’ve got a contractor at your home when the insurance adjuster comes to your home to assess the damage. The contractor will know what your house needs to be made whole again and can point out to an adjuster what damage is cosmetic and what is structural. Remember, the contractor will work for you, the adjuster works for the insurance company.
  5. Don’t despair. If the insurance company denies part of your claim you can still appeal the denial. Be determined and stick to your guns. An insurance policy is there to make you whole in the wake of any damage to your property, you need to stand firm to get the benefits you’ve already paid for.

It goes without saying that you need to know what your insurance covers and what it does not. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, many people found out that they were not covered when insurance companies opted not to pay for storm-caused flood damage for people who did not have flood damage specifically. If you live in an area prone to flooding or other regularly-occurring natural phenomena, make sure your insurance policy covers that kind of damage.

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