Whether reporting damage to your property over the phone or through your mobile device, the I.I.I. offers the following tips on how to file an insurance claim:
- Contact your insurer as soon as possible to begin the process. Provide your insurer with your policy number and the best phone number and email address at which to reach you. After a major storm, insurers visit those with the most severe damage first, so prepare to provide an accurate description of the extent of the property damage. Be sure to explain any special needs of your family, particularly if personal circumstances require that you get priority. Ask your insurer when you can expect to be contacted by an insurance adjuster so that you can be prepared for the visit. Since adjusters may be in areas in which cell phone towers are damaged, it is also a good idea to get the phone number of your adjuster's supervisor so you have an additional contact. If you have a flood insurance claim, contact the agent or broker who sold you the policy to start the claims filing process.
- Document your loss. The insurance adjuster most likely will inspect the damage to your home, auto and possessions in order to write a check to help you replace, repair and rebuild. It is a good idea to take photographs and document the details of damaged items, including the date of purchase and approximate value—and collect receipts, if you have them. Many companies will ask you to submit an inventory of the items. Having a home inventory will make this process easier—the I.I.I.'s free Know Your Stuff® - Home Inventory app can help you create or update your home inventory, even after a disaster.
- Check with your insurer before discarding damaged items and materials. You will generally need to show storm damaged items to your adjuster. If, however, you are required by your local municipality to discard them for safety reasons, take photographs to help with the claims process.
- Sign up for SMS/text alerts. Many insurance companies use SMS/text message alerts that will notify you of the status of your claim. You will receive text messages on your phone when you first report your claim, when your estimate is available and when a payment has been sent.
- Know what emergency services are available. In the event you need emergency services, such as removing water from your home, covering your roof, or boarding up windows or doors, many companies will dispatch an approved emergency services company to protect your home from further damage. If your home has sustained severe damage, making it unlivable, your homeowners insurer will provide you with a check for additional living expenses.
- Keep a claim diary. Good recordkeeping is important when filing a claim. Make a list of everyone you speak to about your claim. Note their name, title and contact information. Also, keep track of the date, time and issues discussed. The better organized you are, the simpler and easier the claims process will be.
A Word About Deductibles
Keep in mind, hurricane deductibles exist in every coastal state from Maine to Texas. Unlike a typical homeowners policy deductible of $500 or $1,000, hurricane deductibles usually are listed as a percentage of the property's insured value—generally between 1 percent to 5 percent of the total coverage. These separate deductibles are prominently located on your declarations page, and spell out specifically the specific percentage and often the dollar amount. Hurricane deductibles typically are applied to damage caused by named storms that have hit land, as determined by the National Weather Service. In Florida, for example, the deductible would be in effect for any damage incurred during the 72 hours after a hurricane warning is issued. Each insurer and state applies the deductibles differently, however, so it's crucial for homeowners to be familiar with their policies.
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