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Navigating your insurance after Hurricane Nate

Contact: Jennifer Bowen

(334) 269-3550

10/10/2017

Following the landfall of Hurricane Nate, many Alabamians are assessing their homes and property for damage and making temporary repairs before filing insurance claims. Alabama Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling encourages all Alabamians to be prompt in notifying their insurance companies and be cautious of repair deals that sound too good to be true.

"Remember the old saying, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is and, after a storm, it could be fraud," Ridling said. "Be wary of aggressive contractors and never agree to up-front payments." If consumers suspect fraud or suspicious activity, report it immediately to the Department of Insurance Fraud Bureau by calling the Fraud Tip Line at 1-800-654-0775. Concerns will be promptly referred to insurance fraud investigators.

Here are the top tips for consumers navigating the insurance claims process after a storm:

Be informed. Notify your insurance company or insurer’s claims hotline of damage as soon as possible. Many insurance companies have reporting deadlines, so it is important to act quickly. Have your insurance company’s name and policy number ready to speed up the claim process. Other steps to take:

Take photographs and/or video of the damaged areas. This will assist the insurance company in its investigation of your claim.

Make emergency repairs to prevent further damage. This includes covering roofs, walls or windows with plywood, canvas or other waterproof material. Do not make permanent repairs without consulting your agent or company. Unauthorized repairs may not be reimbursed.

Keep all receipts for emergency repairs so you can be reimbursed. If you cannot stay in your home, be sure to save hotel receipts.

Before removing damaged property from the premises, be sure an insurance adjuster or your agent has seen the damage so a damage-and-loss assessment can be prepared.

If prescription medications are lost or destroyed, contact your doctor’s office.

Reporting a Claim. Contact your insurance company or agent immediately if you sustained property or vehicle damage due to a natural disaster. If you have to relocate temporarily, make sure the insurance company or agent knows your temporary address and telephone number. Ask your agent or company representative:

What they need to process your claim.

What is covered under your policy.

When you should expect a call from your adjuster.

If your policy will reimburse you for additional living expenses if you have to stay at a hotel.

If there are any special processes or procedures you need to follow.

Working Through the Claims Process. Some valuable tips for consumers with making a property insurance claim after a storm include:

Prepare a detailed inventory of all damaged or destroyed property. Give one copy to the insurance adjuster and keep one copy for your files. Include a description and quantity of the item(s), date of purchase or approximate age, cost at the time of purchase and estimated replacement cost today. Include as much information as possible.

Be present when your insurance adjuster inspects your property. This will enable you to point out all areas you believe have been damaged.

If you think the insurance company’s estimate is too low, obtain an estimate from your own contractor. A contractor’s fee usually will be credited toward the cost of the repairs.

Even if your property is condemned by governmental authorities, your insurance company may decide it can be repaired. To protect yourself, be sure your insurance company’s adjuster has fully inspected the damage.

If your insurance company denies any part of your claim, be sure they put the denial in writing. Keep your paperwork. If the federal government declares your area to be a disaster, you may be eligible for federal relief.

If your home was destroyed and you decide to rebuild on another lot or purchase another home instead, check your policy and discuss your plans with your insurance carrier. There may be limitations on what your insurer will pay if you don’t rebuild on the same property.

The amount of your settlement won’t necessarily be the same as your neighbor’s. Your coverages, deductibles, limits and/or level of damage you sustained may be different.

Your insurance policy provides coverage for the repair or replacement of the property with "like kind and quality" that you had prior to the storm. It does not provide for expensive improvements or upgrades, such as installing a slate roof if, prior to the loss, your roof was a standard 3-tab shingle.

Do not accept an unfair settlement offer. If you can’t reach an agreement, call the insurance company and be prepared to explain why the offer is insufficient or unfair. If you are still not satisfied, contact your state department of insurance.

Don’t Goof When You Re-Roof®. When re-roofing, consider the benefits of home fortification. Fortifying a home or business can reduce the amount of damage sustained in a weather event and save thousands in repair costs. It could also allow the owner to avoid possible displacement during repairs. Here are some valuable tips for fortification:

Before repairs begin, contact a Fortified Evaluator and be sure that all contractors hold a Fortified Wise Professional designation. These are the only contractors certified to work to the Fortified Standard by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). Lists of Fortified Evaluators and certified contractors are can be found at www.disastersafety.org.

Obtain the licensing or credentials of all third-party vendors before signing any work agreements. Review all documentation and ask questions to make sure you understand the agreements you are signing. Ask specifically who is responsible for paying the vendor, you as the consumer, or your insurance company. Beware of out-of-state or fly-by-night repair companies. Hire only licensed and reputable vendors. To verify contractors are properly licensed and bonded, contact the Alabama Homebuilders Licensure Board at 1-800-304-0853.

If you’re considering the services of a public insurance adjuster, make sure you understand how much one charges as well as what services are included before signing any contract. Public insurance adjusters are not licensed or regulated in Alabama.

After repairs have been finished and a claim settlement is complete, keep all receipts for expenses related to damages to your home. The State of Alabama requires insurers to provide premium discounts for fortifying to IBHS FORTIFIED standards. File for your insurance discount with your insurance company after your mitigation work is complete and after receiving your Fortified certificate from IBHS. If you have difficulty obtaining the insurance discount, contact the ALDOI for assistance. For more information, to visit the Alabama Department of Insurance, Smart Home America or IBHS.

If you need property insurance, shop around and compare insurance. Get three quotes. For more information on shopping around for insurance, visit the Alabama Center for Insurance & Insurance Research (ACIIR) at https://culverhouse.ua.edu/aciir.