Steps to Take if You've Experienced Hurricane Damage
Hurricanes are some of Mother Nature’s most destructive storms, leaving heavy damage and devastation to cars, homes, and other valuable property in their wake. Whenever one of these mega-storms rips through an area, insurance companies are swarmed with claims as everyone tries to have their valuables repaired or replaced in the aftermath. Because of this, it’s important to closely track your claim and make sure your insurance company is handling it properly. If you don’t, you may experience unnecessary delays in receiving your payout to get your home fixed, or perhaps only receive a portion of what your company should be required to pay. Here are five things you should do in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane to make sure your claim is properly handled and your repairs are done quickly.
1.Photograph the Damage. When it comes to an insurance claim, photographic evidence is perhaps the most valuable tool you have at your disposal. Pictures can tell a story far better than words in many situations, and the more you are able to take, the better prepared you will be to pursue the full value of your home insurance claim. Make sure you thoroughly document all damage, including any lost property. While going through the damage in your home, take a running inventory of the damages as well—you will need it when you file your claim and throughout the process after. This includes your contents. Photograph all of your contents so you can prove the damages later.
2.Conduct Emergency Repairs. A home that’s damaged in a hurricane may sustain additional damage in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Things such as roof damage, holes in walls, and flooding can continue to wear and eat away at the structure of your home, form mold, and more. This means you should do what you can to stop any of these immediate threats and prevent further damage from adding to your woes. Be careful though, you don’t want to repair too much on your home or you will risk potentially de-valuing your claim and your home won’t get repaired properly. Wait until your insurance company sends out an adjustor to see what happened before you start your cleanup efforts in earnest.
3.Secure Your Contents. Do you have an inventory of what you have in your home, such as furnishings, valuable electronics, jewelry, works of art, and other important possessions? If not, you should really consider making one, keeping it updated regularly, and storing it in a safe place. In the event of a major disaster, such as a hurricane, your homeowners’ insurance company will want to know what possessions you’re listing as part of your claim, and having this list ready and up-to-date can ensure your claim is handled quickly and that you don’t accidentally leave out anything valuable you might have lost. Having receipts or the proof of value of those items with that list is also a good idea.
4.File a Claim. Some insurance companies work on a first-come, first-serve basis and assign adjustors and agents to claims as they come in. If you submit your claim after the majority of other people have done so, you’ll probably be forced to wait a while for the ball to get rolling on your claim. Therefore, it’s in your best interests to file your claim as soon as possible. However, if you can provide a little bit of extra information when filing your claim, your adjustor’s inspection will probably go more smoothly and your claim will proceed faster.
5.Find Somewhere Safe to Live. If your home is uninhabitable, you’ll need to find somewhere to go where your family can live. If that means finding a nearby hotel, that might be what you have to do. Most homeowners’ insurance policies include “loss of use” in their coverages, and they will typically help pay for lodging, provided the damage is part of your hurricane claim. Check your policy and make sure you have this coverage, and let your insurance company know where you are staying, how much it will cost, and that you are requesting temporary financial assistance with these costs while your home is uninhabitable.
6.Know Your Policy. Have you looked in detail at what’s in your homeowners’ policy? If not, you might be unpleasantly surprised to learn that some of your damage isn’t covered. The big culprit when it comes to hurricane damage isn’t always the wind or debris, but water damage. Floods are particularly devastating to homes; but homeowners’ policies don’t actually cover flood damage. Make sure you have a flood policy. Finally, make sure you have this far in advance, as well; some insurance policies have a mandatory 30-day waiting period before filing flood damage claims.
Hurricane deductibles are also another big surprise when it comes to storm victims. Hurricane deductibles are the amount you are required to pay out of pocket before your insurance company will start contributing for repairs, and can typically be about 5% of the total value of your home, meaning you might be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars! Know your financial responsibilities when it comes to your policy and you’ll be ready in the event you have to file a claim.
If your home is damaged this hurricane season and you feel your claim is not being handled properly, contact a New Orleans property damage attorney for legal assistance. Call us at Chopin Law Firm, LLC now for a free consultation.