Handling Home Damage from Hurricanes: Navigating Insurance Claims

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For many people whose residences are damaged by a hurricane or tropical storm, the trauma is quickly followed by another significant source of stress: filing a claim with their insurance company. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States experienced twenty distinct billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in 2021, for a total of $145 billion. Depending on the severity of the storm, individual householders whose homes are damaged by a hurricane may incur tens of thousands of dollars in damages or even more. 

And the remnants of Tropical Storm Hilary brought record rainfall to Southern California this week, resulting in flooded roads and mudslides, as well as the potential for flooding in Oregon and Idaho. Knowing the fundamentals of homeowner’s insurance and submitting a claim can help you avoid certain hazards in the event of a natural disaster. Typically, such insurance will cover damage caused by strong winds, but some policies exclude windstorms. Property owners typically have a separate deductible for hurricanes, so it pays to verify what your policy covers — and, just as importantly, what it does not cover — prior to a disaster, say experts. 

Vince Perri, founder and CEO of Elite Resolutions and a public insurance adjuster, told that, “It’s prudent to review it when you renew.”

 Here is information about cyclone insurance and dealing with your insurer after a natural disaster.

Check your storm deductible  

Typically, hurricane deductibles range between 2 and 10 percent of your home’s total value. However, in hurricane-prone regions such as Florida, where Perri resides, he recommends a lower deductible due to the possibility of incurring high out-of-pocket costs in the event of a disaster. “Someone sent me a policy to review, and he intended to go with a 10% deductible. I advised him not to do so, as hurricanes are a common occurrence,” he said.

For instance, if a residence worth $400,000 with a 10% deductible were destroyed, the homeowner would be responsible for $40,000 in out-of-pocket expenses. A reduced deductible may reduce incremental costs, but will result in financial ruin in the event of severe damage.  Regarding hurricanes, Perri advised opting for a 2% deductible.

Document your property prior to a typhoon.

Perri suggested that once a year, householders should photograph their property to document the condition of their residence. You will be able to demonstrate to your insurer that the damage was actually caused by the hurricane if you take this action after a storm.  “If there is a storm, the insurance company may claim that the damage is not due to the hurricane, but rather to pre-existing conditions,” he explained. “If you have evidence, that could be of great assistance to you.”

Take pictures promptly following a hurricane.

As soon as feasible after a storm, photograph the devastation to document the immediate aftermath of the hurricane. In accordance with the “Duties After Loss” clause of homeowners insurance, this is typically a homeowner’s responsibility after a catastrophe. In accordance with this clause, you may be required to file a claim promptly, secure the property from further damage, and authorize the insurance company to inspect the property. Check your policy to ensure you are aware of your responsibilities in the event of a cyclone.

Quickly submit your claim — and follow up

Some insurance policies require you to submit your claim in a punctual manner, but the vast majority of homeowners will likely file as soon as possible to expedite payment. Perri recommends that you follow up with your insurance company at least once every week after submitting a claim.  After a hurricane or other natural calamity, “They have hundreds of thousands of insurance claims, so if you don’t follow up, you may be forgotten,” he continued. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

You are not required to accept your insurance provider’s initial offer.

An insurer will either deny a claim or accept it and make a payment, but the amount may not be sufficient to restore the damage to your residence. In this circumstance, an appeal may be filed. 

You can do this by requesting estimates from contractors and submitting them as evidence that the proposed payment is too low, or by hiring a public insurance adjuster who works for you, the householder, and not the insurance company. In general, public insurance administrators charge a fee between 5 and 20 percent of the insurance claim.

“Employ someone to compile these estimates for use in an appeal,” Perri advised.

He advised that if you hire a contractor, the estimate should be extremely detailed, down to the number of applications of paint they will use to restore your home to its former condition. “Documentation is king,” added Perri.

 

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Source: CBS News

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