As we all keep an eye on Hurricane Dorian, I thought I might share some advice on property insurance.
Three years ago during Hurricane Matthew, our home suffered both flood and wind/hail damage…which gave me my first experience with insurance losses/claims as a homeowner.
From that experience, I have just a few quick insurance-based tips in case you have to evacuate with the hopes that they may be useful:
1). Photograph and/or video your whole property, inside, outside, grounds, secondary structures, and all of your contents/belongings. I found that photos were easier to email to the adjuster than video, especially considering the adjusters may be working from iPads, laptops and smartphones from the field.
2). Print off your full insurance polices, and put them in a 3-ring binder, simply labeled by policy type (flood, homeowners, auto, etc). Put this in your car so you are sure it makes it with you.
3). The moment you become aware of damage to your home that warrants a claim, call in the claim asap. Getting in the cue early is likely to make a difference in how quickly you are serviced/contacted.
4). When you get home, photograph everything again to document the loss and damage. This includes anything you are throwing out: photograph it BEFORE it goes in the trash, or you’re likely to forget.
5). If you have extensive damage, go room by room and dictate/take notes about what you see, what items got damaged, etc. If contents are damaged and you’ll include them on your claim, try to make note of approximately when and where you bought them and how much they cost new. All of this will have to be scheduled on a claim form, so it’s good to start that data process sooner than later.
6). Once you have an adjuster, save their contact info in our phone(s), and approach them professionally with courtesy and thanks for their help because they are the pathway to your satisfactory claim. But also realize every adjuster is different. My two were about as different as you could imagine…but I committed to doing all I could to make their work on my behalf pleasant and productive. If you find your adjuster too challenging to work with, you can go back to your insurance company to request a change. Also, working on filing, negotiating, and settling a claim is a ton of work…so seek help if needed, including an attorney or even a public adjuster service – just be mindful of those added costs.
7). Document your calls, emails, texts, and meetings on a simple timeline list, including notes of what was discussed, etc. Keeping a record is important because this kind of chaotic situation can be confusing.
8 ). Get your own estimates where/when possible. The national-data estimating tools adjusters use might not take into consideration what local contracting and material costs are. You are entitled to a fair claim, and usually the more info on the table the better.
9). This was surprising to me, but your flood policy won’t cover loss of use…so if you cannot occupy your home because of a flood loss, the cost of living someplace else is on you – not the insurance company.
10). Recoverable depreciation, ordinance and law, advance money, and so many other technical components of the insurance world can impact the cash flow of your claim…so do your best to read your policies word for word, then ask questions and seek assistance where you are uncertain. It’s a complex process to get through your claim, but certainly not impossible. The more diligent and focused you can be, the more certain you’ll be that you got a fair settlement.
Anyway, I hope you won’t need these tips, but if you do, I’m glad to help answer any additional questions from my limited but certainly-real experience.
Be safe in the days ahead, and feel free to share if this might be helpful to a friend…