On the morning of September 6, 2019, Hurricane Dorian made its first landfall in the United States over North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Since then, the residents of North Carolina, South Carolina, and the surrounding states have felt the effects of an unforgiving storm, some more than others. While many people are still unable to return to their homes due to flooding and cresting rivers, some residents are finally able to return to their homes and begin the process of recovery.
After any major storm, the recovery process almost always includes the filing of insurance claims under insurance policies. Unfortunately, the claim process can be overwhelming, emotional, and at times confusing for people who do not work in the insurance industry regardless of the type of insurance policy. To minimize that frustration and improve your claim filing experience, consider the following helpful tips from the Insurance Information Institute:
1) Contact your insurer as soon as possible to begin the process. Provide your insurer with your policy number and the best phone number and email address at which to reach you. After a major storm, insurers visit those with the most severe damage first, so prepare to provide an accurate description of the extent of the property damage. Be sure to explain any special needs of your family, particularly if personal circumstances require that you get priority. Ask your insurer when you can expect to be contacted by an insurance adjuster so that you can be prepared for the visit. Since adjusters may be in areas in which cell phone towers are damaged, it is also a good idea to get the phone number of your adjuster’s supervisor so you have an additional contact. If you have a flood insurance claim, contact the agent or broker who sold you the policy to start the claims filing process.
2) Document your loss. The insurance adjuster most likely will inspect the damage to your home, auto and possessions in order to write a check to help you replace, repair and rebuild. It is a good idea to take photographs and document the details of damaged items, including the date of purchase and approximate value—and collect receipts, if you have them. Many companies will ask you to submit an inventory of the items. Having a home inventory will make this process easier.
3) Check with your insurer before discarding damaged items and materials. You will generally need to show storm damaged items to your adjuster. If, however, you are required by your local municipality to discard them for safety reasons, take photographs to help with the claims process.
Other helpful tips include:
1) Keep a claim diary. Insurance companies always keep records of conversations about a claim and you should too. Keep a detailed record of your claim conversations including who you spoke to, the date, time, and what was discussed.
2) Keep track of receipts. Homeowner and renter policies often provide reimbursement for additional living expenses. If the damage to your home is such that you are required to leave the premises, your insurance may cover some or all of your lodging and meal costs.
3) Check with your insurer or an attorney before making repairs to your home. After a major storm, it is understandable homeowners will want to get their property restored as quickly as possible. However, extensive repairs can impact your insurance claim. At the same time, homeowners have an obligation to mitigate against future damage. Given the consequences of moving forward with a repair, make sure to discuss the issue with your adjuster or an attorney before beginning the repair.
4) Write your claim number down and keep it in a safe space.
5) Exercise caution when entering the property. After a major storm, property owners can find all sorts of hazards on their property. From animals (e.g., snakes) and debris to downed powerlines and submerged electrical components. When entering the property, owners should always exercise caution to avoid personal injury to themselves or others and additional property damage.
If you have questions about this article or a legal issue involving your insurance policy, please contact the attorneys of Anderson Jones, PLLC by email or (919) 277-2541.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion.