Thursday, August 29, 2019 / by Jordana Tobel
Read your policy carefully and ask questions long before a storm approaches. Does it cover wind damage?
Insurance laws change from year to year. Check the “Exclusions” portion of your policy for recent changes.
Review the “Duties After Loss” section of your policy. Failure to follow the provisions in this section could result in non-payment on your legitimate claim.
Update your policy so your home is insured for whatever it costs to replace it, including your possessions. Find out how much coverage you have for Additional Living Expenses in case you have to live away from home while your home is repaired or rebuilt. Older homes that don't meet current building codes must be upgraded, which increases the cost of rebuilding them.
Be certain your agent is reputable and knows local building codes, welcomes questions and is willing to explain things clearly.
Don’t wait. Most insurers suspend selling new policies or increasing existing coverage when a hurricane approaches Florida.
Check websites. Florida consumers having difficulty finding good coverage at reasonable rates can find helpful information at floir.com.
Flood insurance must be purchased separately if you want it. Policies are not effective until 30 days after you make a payment. Go to floodsmart.gov.
Make sure your insurers have up-to-date contact and mortgage company information.
Make a visual record of your home and possessions using a still or video camera. This will help establish your claim.
Have copies of your insurance policies in a safe deposit box or safe, along with other important documents such as deeds, wills, and family medical information. Photograph or scan your documents and save them to the cloud for easy retrieval in the event of a loss.
After the storm
Call your insurance agent immediately. Most major insurers have toll-free phone numbers.
Take pictures/video of damaged property. Keep notes and use inventory lists to help adjusters assess damages.
Secure replacement costs/estimates from local retailers, and obtain statements from vendors on items that cannot be repaired.
Begin making temporary repairs to prevent further damage. Save all receipts. But don’t make permanent repairs until an insurance adjuster has inspected it.
Do not dispose of damaged contents until authorized by your agent or claim representative.
Insurers usually don't pay for removal of trees or debris that blew into your yard without damaging an insured structure.
Let your insurer know how to reach you if your home is uninhabitable or you move somewhere else temporarily.
Be careful about signing anything from contractors before speaking with your insurance company. Some contractors might try to persuade you to sign document called an Assignment of Benefits which transfers rights to seek payment for your claim, including filing lawsuits.
Don't assume that adjusters will know what street they are on; street signs may have blown away. Industry officials say spray-painting important information on homes after a hurricane has proven effective. But don't include your policy number; someone else may take advantage of that.
Be patient. Insurers usually send adjusters to the worst-hit homes first.
Many adjusters and agents are authorized to issue checks on the spot to cover the cost of temporary housing.
If confused about your claim or dissatisfied with your insurance adjuster’s findings, consider seeking help from a public adjuster. A list of licensed adjusters is available from the Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters at www.fapia.net.