What To Do If A Hurricane Or Storm Damages Your Home
The after effects of a hurricane or big storm can be painful, both emotionally and financially. Damage to property, loss of electricity, mental and emotional trauma can all cause additional stresses. Making sure your insurance company treats you fairly should be the least of your worries. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case.
If a storm or hurricane damages your home, take the following steps after the storm to ensure your claim is handled properly. Remember - your insurance company isn’t on your side! If you don’t take steps to protect yourself, you could be at a disadvantage!
At The Start Of Storm And Hurricane Season
Long before the clouds start to form, do a thorough inspection of your home. Getting organized before long before storm season begins ensures that you’re organized and protected, and it’s one less thing to do before a storm hits. At the same time you’re making sure that your claim process will go much more smoothly if your home or possessions are damaged by a storm, and that you’ll be paid that much more quickly.
Be sure to put a copy of your insurance policy and other important documents (such as passports, bank information, birth certificates, etc.) in a safe place. You may need to access them after the storm. If you can’t find your policy, call your agent or your insurance company to request a new one. At a minimum, write down your policy number and your insurance company’s phone number.
Home Inventory Important
A home inventory is an incredibly powerful tool to ensuring you are properly compensated if a tragedy happens to your home. A home inventory is just that - an inventory of your more expensive possessions, furniture, electronic equipment, furnishing, clothing, and other valuable items. Various companies throughout Florida offer this service - a Google search will turn up many of them - but home inventories are very easy to do yourself, too.
Free software is also available to help you with the inventory process. Googling free home inventory software will turn up listings, or the Insurance Information Institute offers a free software inventory program at www.knowyourstuff.org. However you do it, whether by software, an outside company, video or a plain old fashion piece of paper, make sure your records are as accurate as possible. Inventory all your important possessions. If possible, take photographs or video of them. Take photos or a video of your home, both inside and out. If you have receipts for possessions, scan them into a computer or make copies.
Write down what the item is, and as much information as possible about it. For instance, don’t just say “flat screen TV” - instead, list the manufacturer, model number, and serial number. For certain things like clothing, make an accurate count and description of each item.
Remember - be honest when compiling your list! Insurance fraud is illegal! Just one exaggerated or false item can cause serious legal problems and may be a reason for your insurance company to deny your claim! Photograph, and if possible videotape all your expensive possessions. If video recording, provide a verbal commentary describing what each item is. Disposable video and photo cameras are available for nominal prices at most drug stores.
Backup Your Inventory List
Once you create your list, put it somewhere safe! A safe deposit box at a bank is a good place. If your information is saved on your computer, BACK IT UP! Consider burning the information and pictures onto a CD or even better, use an online backup service! That way, even if your computer is destroyed you’ll still be able to retrieve your information from another computer on the internet!
After The Storm
When safe, inspect your home. If you have damage to your home’s structure or any belongings, report the damage to your insurance company as soon as possible.
You can call your insurance company’s 800 number, or perhaps your agent’s phone number. If the lines are busy, be persistent - this is important. Tell the insurance company what happened, describe the damage to your home, and describe any losses you are aware of.
Photograph the damage as best as possible. Also take whatever steps you can to protect your home from the weather and from vandalism and theft. If your roof is damaged (common for hurricanes), consider covering it with a tarp temporarily. Try to keep water out of your home as best as possible.
After documenting the damage and making whatever repairs you can, report the damage to your insurance company. Save receipts from any temporary repairs you’ve made.
Begin to prepare for the insurance adjuster’s visit to your property. After large storms many insurance companies hire independent adjusters to adjust losses, so expect the adjuster to not be an employee of your insurance company. Nonetheless, the adjuster is still “loyal” to the insurance company first and to you second. Make sure you have an extra copy of your inventory and photographs to provide to the adjuster.
Anytime you speak to an adjuster or a person from the insurance company, take note. Document everything possible - from damage to conversations. Keep letters regarding the claim, and never let go of original documents - always provide other people with copies of everything. And remember to follow up regularly with your company. If you disagree with the estimate provided by the adjuster, complain about it.
Byrne Law Group Available 24/7 After Storms To Assist
Remember - do not sign any releases or settlement agreements without talking to an attorney, such as the experienced storm team at the Byrne Law Group. You can speak to them by calling 813-413-6565 or by filling out the form. Following major storms, the Byrne Law Group is available for FREE consultation 24 hours a day. We are experienced at dealing with property and hurricane claims, and can guide your claim from start to finish.