the insurance claims process is critical to getting the money you're owed
after you’ve experienced a loss. The National Association of Insurance
Commissioners (NAIC) offers these tips for handling a claim following a
Immediately after the disaster
Your first instinct may be to
clean up, but it's important to have an accurate account of all damage for
your insurance company when you file a claim. Before removing any debris or
belongings, document all losses. Take photos or video and make a list of the
damages and lost items. If possible, save damaged items so your insurer can
inspect, if necessary.
After thoroughly documenting
damage, take reasonable steps to avoid further destruction to your home or
belongings. Policies call this mitigation. Make temporary repairs, such as
covering a hole in your roof or boarding up broken windows. Insurance will
typically reimburse the cost of these repairs as part of your claim, assuming
the loss was covered. Your company may also reimburse you if you need to find
temporary lodging or storage for your possessions. Keep a record of all
Starting your claim
Most insurance companies have a
time requirement for reporting a claim, so contact your agent or company as
soon as possible. Insurers often send response teams to disaster areas.
Company officials can help you determine what damages are covered, start your
claim and even issue a check to start the recovery process.
When reporting losses, you'll need
insurance information, current contact information and a home inventory or list of damaged
and lost property. If you do not have a home inventory,
begin making a list of lost items, going room by room, including as much
detail as possible. If your car sustained damage while in your
garage/carport, it is covered by your auto insurance, not homeowners. If you
have different home and auto insurance providers, you will need to report a
claim with both companies.
The claims process
After you report damage to your
insurer, they will send a claims adjuster to assess the damage at no cost to
you. Public adjusters offer the same services, but you would be responsible
for any related fees. An adjuster will walk through your home to inspect
damaged items and temporary repairs. They may look at the outside of your
home, your roof or your basement.
Once the adjuster has completed
their assessment, they will provide documentation of the loss to your insurer
to determine your claims settlement. When it comes to getting paid, you may
receive more than one check. The first will likely be an emergency advance.
Other payments will be for the contents of your home and other personal
property. Please note that if there is a mortgage on your home, the payment
for structural damage may be payable to you and your
mortgage lender. Lenders may put that money into an escrow account and pay
for repairs as the work is completed.
Be alert for fraud
Home repair fraud is common after
a natural disaster. Contractors often come into disaster-struck regions
looking to make quick money by taking advantage of victims. Be wary of
aggressive contractors and demands for up-front repair payment. Do not feel
pressured by any contractor or rushed to sign a contract. Never pay cash or
write a check before services are rendered. Pay in installments and wait
until the repair work is complete to issue final payment.
It's a good idea to do business
with local or trusted companies. Ask friends and family for references. You
can also check with the Better Business Bureau to ensure contactors are
licensed in your state. Your insurer may also have recommendations. Always
get more than one bid on work projects. Your adjuster may want to review
estimates before you make repairs.
Fraud related to vehicles damaged
by flooding can be common after a disaster as well. Flood damaged vehicles
can be fixed and sold as used vehicles to unsuspecting consumers. Before
buying a used car, run the vehicle identification number to check for prior
damage and repairs to the vehicle before purchasing. For more information
about fraud, check out this consumer alert.