Tips to take when filing insurance claims after Hurricane Irma
Earlier this week, Hurricane Irma rolled through Florida. While overall the damage was less than expected, for hundreds of thousands of Florida residents, the damage to their property will require filing a claim with their insurance companies. Here are some tips to make the filing process as simple as possible:
Contact your insurer as soon as possible. Insurance companies often respond to claims on a first-come, first-served basis. In preparation for this storm, Floridians left their homes for safer locations up north in unprecedented numbers. When those Floridians return to their homes to discover the damage, insurance companies will be flooded with calls. Be sure you are on the front end of those calls.
Document damage with photo and video. Do a complete and comprehensive walk around your home and your personal property to document any damage. Include a walk around and review of your automobiles, boats, and any other valuable property which may have been damaged. Don’t forget to photograph spoiled goods in your refrigerator as many policies will reimburse you for food which spoiled after you lost power.
Keep all of your receipts. Keep all of the receipts for any of your Hurricane Irma related expenses. This includes receipts for lodging and meals if you were forced to evacuate, as well as receipts for immediate repairs you need to make in order to secure your home upon return. For instance, if you need to purchase a tarp or board up a broken window in order to prevent further damage to your home, that is likely a reimbursable expense. When in doubt, keep the receipt so you can turn it over to the insurance company later on in the claim process.
File a claim even if you don’t have flood insurance. If you don’t have flood insurance, but you received damage which you think is attributable to flooding, file a claim anyway. Sometimes damage can be attributed to other factors and your loss could be covered under the wind and water damage portion of your policy.
Get the claims adjuster’s information. When the claims adjuster arrives at your door be sure to get a card. If they are an adjuster employed by your insurance company, also request the contact information of the adjuster’s supervisor. If the adjuster is a contractor for the insurance company, request the contact information for the insurance agent representative to whom they will provide the estimate information. Before the adjuster leaves, ensure you get a copy of the estimate and that it includes your claim number. If you feel that the estimate is too low, or does not address all your damage, contact the higher-ups. Insurance companies rely on people accepting the first estimate. Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Be wary of contractors cold calling or coming door to door. In the coming weeks, you will see that disaster response can bring out the best in people, but unfortunately, also the worst. There will be con artists, posing as building contractors, roofers, window installers, insurance adjusters etc. out there trying to take advantage of your vulnerability during this troubling time. If someone contacts you without you engaging them first, be vigilant with your information and money. Ask for a business card and check the name against databases like the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org), The Florida Department of State Division of Corporations (http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/search/), or even Yelp.
Matthew Smith is a licensed attorney in Tampa, Florida. If you feel your insurance company is either partially or fully denying your valid claims, contact Matthew T. Smith Law at (813) 591-5913 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation about the steps available to you.