America hasn’t seen a storm as strong as Hurricane Matthew in a decade, and the damages could be epic. The Consumer Federation of America predicts as many as 100,000 insurance claims for wind damage, and payouts for damages likely will exceed $7.4 billion.
As residents board up windows and stock up on bottled water, if they have time to safely do so, they should also consider preparing for the possibility that they soon could be facing an insurance claim.
Before the storm
The CFA offers these three tips:
- Locate your homeowners or renters policy, and make sure it’s in a safe place where you can reach it after the storm.
- Review your policy to find out how and where to report a claim.
- If possible, document your belongings with photos or a video tour.
The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America also recommends a thorough documentation. A home inventory can be vital to ensure you get the most out of your insurance policy, said Don Griffin, vice president of personal lines for PCIAA.
“You see your stuff every day, but if you don’t have a picture or a video of it, you won’t remember,” Griffin said.
PCIAA recommends using a smartphone to supplement an inventory with photos and videos inside the home. You should save your inventory in a disaster-proof form, such as email or cloud-based note-taking services.
The more detailed the list, the better, said Joshua Butts, owner of Cornerstone Insurance in Tampa. That means tallying the contents of drawers and the make and model of furniture, TVs and other big-ticket electronics. A detailed list gets an owner more money back in a loss, and they get it back more quickly, Butts said — instead of dickering over the exact nature of lost items, insurers have the lists, photos and videos right before them.
“What you document is what you get back,” Butts said.
In addition to documenting your possessions, keep track of any expenses you incur to mitigate damage, like boarding up windows, because they may covered.
After the storm
The CFA recommends that you:
- Report your claim as soon as possible, because they’re usually handled on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Be sure to get a claim number and write it down. It’s the quickest and easiest way for insurance companies to locate your file.
- Keep good records of anything you spend to make immediate repairs to secure your home. Also keep receipts for hotels or meals if you can’t return home right away after the storm.
After you file your claim
- Immediately start a notebook with all contact information of the people you deal with from your insurance company, the CFA recommends. List the date, time and topic of conversations. Note any problems, as well. Documentation is key to resolving problems later.
- Get a repair estimate from a local contractor you trust to use as a guide in talking with the insurance adjuster.
And, finally, if you’re considering skipping filing a claim because you’re worried about future premium hikes or policy cancellations, don’t.
“You’ve paid your premium and are entitled to coverage,” the CFA wrote in a release. “If you have a legitimate claim, do not hesitate to file it.”