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10 things to know about hurricane insurance claims

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Three of costliest natural disasters in US history were hurricanes that hit in 2017: Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma. And Hurricane Laura in 2020 was among the 20 most expensive storms.

Forecasters predict an active 2021 hurricane season (which would be the fifth year in a row). The devastation of Hurricane Ida could well be the start of billions and billions of dollars in damage.

If your home is hit by a hurricane, you can learn a lot from the experiences of past victims of natural disasters who have had to assess the damage, contact their insurers, and begin the long process of physical and financial recovery from recent record hurricanes. Here’s how to get the money you deserve from your insurance company, and how to make the most of other aids to fill the gaps.

In general, damage caused by wind, wind driven rain, and water entering your home through your roof, windows, doors or holes in the walls are covered by home insurance. But damage from flooding or water rising from the bottom up – from an overflow of a body of water, for example, or a storm surge – is not covered.

Much of the damage to Houston from Hurricane Harvey was due to flooding and was only covered if you had flood insurance, such as through the national flood insurance program FloodSmart.gov or d ‘a private flood insurer. But even if you didn’t have flood insurance, it’s worth contacting your home insurance company to see if some of your expenses will be covered, like wind damage to your roof or costs. additional subsistence expenses that you incurred during your absence. your house. See the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Wind Damage vs. Flood Damage fact sheet.

If your auto insurance includes comprehensive coverage (which insures against the type of physical damage not caused by an accident) then flooding would be covered. In many cases, the water damage can be so severe that the insurance company will declare the car a total loss and pay the claim for the value of the car (less the deductible). Also be careful if you buy a used car in the months following a major hurricane, as flood damaged vehicles enter the market. Water damaged cars can present serious safety hazards, from faulty airbags to compromised electrical systems.

Insurers usually want you to make temporary repairs, such as laying a tarp, to prevent further damage to the home, even before an adjuster assesses the property. But take pictures before making these temporary fixes. Check out the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ apps and other resources to help you document damage. Also keep receipts for any supplies you had to purchase for repairs, which may be reimbursed by your insurer. See Rebuilding Your Home and Finances After a Disaster for more information on how the people whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 worked with their insurers and other organizations to recover physically and financially after a disaster. storm.

While damage from wind and blown rain is covered by a standard home insurance policy, many charge separate wind deductibles, which means higher costs for you. Deductibles are generally based on a percentage (about 5% to 10%) of your coverage rather than a fixed amount.

It can really add up. For example, suppose your home is insured for $ 500,000 with a 5% wind deductible, and you have $ 30,000 in roof and siding damage from high winds. You are responsible for $ 25,000, with your insurance covering only $ 5,000 of damage.

Emergency management agencies in most states have information about other resources to help after a hurricane, such as emergency housing, medical and financial assistance from various nonprofit and government organizations. Start by typing your address in the tool at Disaster Assistance.gov to learn more about assistance in your area, including money for living expenses and reconstruction. You can also get help in person at a FEMA disaster recovery center.

Search for the nearest one using the recovery center locator or the FEMA mobile app. You can also benefit from SBA Disaster Loan Assistance, a low-interest loan available to homeowners and tenants to repair or replace damaged property. (Even though it’s offered by the US Small Business Administration, you don’t have to be a business to qualify.) Also check out the links to the state emergency management agencies.

Even if a hurricane didn’t destroy your home, you could still suffer damage from fallen trees. If your tree damages a neighbor’s property, such as crushing a garage or fence, your neighbor must file a claim with their insurance company, who will usually pay to repair the damage. When a tree falls and doesn’t hit anything, insurance policies will typically only pay $ 500 to $ 1,000 – or sometimes nothing – for cleanup.

Most home insurance policies cover additional living expenses, including rent, food, and other expenses, for up to a year while you cannot live in your home, or for a certain period of time. percentage of the total amount of your coverage. This may be the first amount you receive from your insurance company before they determine how much to pay to rebuild your home. These living expenses can really add up if you are away from your home for a while while waiting for your home to be rebuilt. Keep receipts for reimbursement. Some insurers provide debit cards for these expenses.

If you had a home inventory listing your belongings and kept it online or outside of your home, you’ll have a good head start when filing your claims. If not, you may be able to gather information that can help you with your complaint. Any photos you have of rooms in your home can provide proof to the insurer of the items that have been damaged.

Also look for receipts for valuables. And take photos after the hurricane but before removing the debris so you have documentation that the items were damaged in the storm. Check out How to Get Your Insurer to Pay Your Claims to find out how people replenished inventories after tornadoes and water damage claims and what they wish they had done differently.

State insurance departments often send consumer protection staff to disaster areas to answer questions and help you contact your insurer. Many insurance companies also have mobile claims units in the field to help file a claim and answer any questions.

State insurance services may also step in if you are having difficulty contacting your insurer or getting your claim paid. Many insurance services also have special mediation programs in place to help resolve disputes between residents and their insurance companies after a major disaster. For more information, see the National Association of Insurance Commissioners insurance department map for contact information in your state.

The state’s insurance department can help you with questions when you start filing your claim, and they can also step in if you’re having difficulty contacting your insurer or getting your claim paid. Many insurance services also have special mediation programs in place to help resolve disputes between residents and their insurance companies after a major disaster. For more information, see the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Insurance Service Map for contact details for your state.

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