You may have heard Hurricane Florence is coming.
You’ve stocked up on water, propane and non-perishable food. You’ve refilled your prescriptions and gotten gas for your cars and generator. You’ve restocked your First-Aid kit, charged all of your charging sticks, checked on your supplies of sunscreen and bug spray and made sure everything in your family’s “go bags” is ready. Not yet? See https://www.ready.gov/build-a-kit or https://tinyurl.com/WRAL-Preparedness.
What else should you do to prepare for the aftermath? How should you document any damage and make sure you are able to collect on any applicable insurance? It’s too late to get new insurance. That said, locate the following:
Put them in water-tight container and put that container in a secure place. In a separate plastic bag, add some pens and pencils, a few disposable cameras, a tape measure, a spiral notebook or two, a small paper calendar, a handful of paperclips or a stapler and extra staples. Add a few extra seal-able bags for cell phones, charges and battery packs. Before the power goes out, inventory and photograph your belongings to document them prior to the storm. If you’re short on time, walk through each room of your home while you video the contents with your smart phone. If you evacuate, take all these things with you.
Emerge with caution after the storm. More people are hurt or killed after the storm.
Take care to check for dangerous conditions including flooding, broken glass and debris, downed power lines, displaced wildlife (snakes, fire ants, etc.). Document any damage with your camera. Take notes of what you find in your spiral notebook. Make whatever emergency repairs are necessary to make things safe. If your home is not safe, begin work to find a shelter or other place to stay until it is.
If you need to make an insurance claim, contact your carrier and report the claim. Make note of who you speak with in your spiral notebook. Jot down the date and time of your call in your notes. If they direct you to do something, put their direction in your notes. Be sure to read your notes back to them to confirm you have understood them correctly. If you are assigned an adjuster, put their name and contact information into your spiral notebook. Each time you speak with someone about your claim, put notes of your conversation into your notebook. Be sure to include the date and time of each conversation and a list of everyone present or on the line.
If an adjuster or repair contractor visits your property, get their card and staple it into your notebook. If they don’t have a card, get their name and all of their contact information into your notebook. You might even take their picture when they’re there. In short, know who you’re dealing with, what authority they have and write everything down that they tell you about your claim or repairs. Be sure to include the date and time of each visit and a list of everyone present.
Beware of hiring contractors and other emergency service providers who show up at your home or business unannounced. They may or may not be competent and reliable. Unless you are dealing with an emergency and have no choice, try to get a referral from a trusted source before making a hire.
If you must purchase things to make repairs or find alternative lodging, keep your receipts in one of the extra plastic bags or staple them into your spiral notebook. You will be tired and out-of-sorts and this system will help you track everything.
When dealing with adjusters from your homeowners, automobile or other casualty insurance carriers, you should know that they are obligated to act promptly in response to your claims. Of course, that can be affected by a disaster. They are also obligated to treat you fairly, inform you of the coverage or coverages under which they’re paying your claims and explain the reasons for denying or limiting your claims.
If you experience flooding and have a separate flood insurance policy (flood insurance will not be included in your homeowner’s policy), take particular care to promptly report your claim and to comply with all policy deadlines. If the adjuster, your agent, or anyone else says you do not need to worry about meeting policy deadlines for filing your claim or submitting a sworn proof of loss, do not believe them. With rare exceptions, flood insurance is issued through a Federal program (even if your policy purports to have been issued by a private company), and the people you will be dealing with are NOT empowered to waive deadlines.
If you have basic coverage questions, your independent agent can be a good resource. If you are not able to get the answers you need from your agent, or if you feel the insurance company may not be handling your claim correctly, consult a lawyer. SMVT partners Mike Tadych ([email protected]) and Matt Vaughn ([email protected]) have extensive experience advising and representing clients regarding problem insurance claims.