Hurricane Irma is finally gone. You stepped outside Monday morning, relieved to be rid of the howling winds, delighted to see the sun. You cleared the fallen branches, surveyed the damage around your home, and discovered you’re going to have to file an insurance claim to help cover repairs.
Irma left a path of destruction all over Florida, and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) estimates that the storm could result in 450,000 claims for insurance payments — 300,000 for wind damage and 150,000 for federal flood insurance. Insurance payments for wind damage could exceed Hurricane Andrew’s insurance payments of $25 billion and FEMA-insured flood claims could reach $15 billion.
FILING AN INSURANCE CLAIM FOR STORM DAMAGE
If your home has been damaged, exposure to the elements may greatly increase the amount of damage to you home. Many insurance policies limit your time to file a claim, so don't wait until you have water dripping through the ceiling, mold in the attic, or your roof caves in to call your insurance company. It might be too late to file a valid storm damage claim.
Be wary of insurance company "approved" contractors who have a financial incentive to save the insurance company money at your expense. Protect yourself by hiring a reputable contractor to represent your best interests. You have paid your homeowners insurance, so make sure you get the maximum value for your claim.
Insurance Claim Tips
- Don't Delay! Most insurance policies limit your time to file a claim
- You can't be singled out for a rate increase due to storm damage
- Insurance restoration contractors advocate for you
- Always hire the best contractor, not the cheapest
- Beware of insurance company "approved" contractors
- Always do your homework and understand your rights
- Insurance Claims Process
Filing a storm damage insurance claim can be a frustrating and confusing process. You should remember that your insurance company is in business to make money and may try to deny your claim. So we’ve created a 7 Step Guide to make the claims process easy to understand.
Step 1: Assess the storm damage. Record the date of the storm, signs of damage you can see from the ground, and take pictures of any damage. Search online for news stories of the storm hitting your area, so you have proof if it is ever required.
Step 2: Contact several reputable storm repair contractors and obtain 3 written proposals. Make sure your contractor performs a full property inspection, including the roof, windows, siding, AC units, screens, concrete and all other exterior surfaces.
Step 3: Read your insurance policy carefully and contact the claims department of your insurance company directly. Be prepared to provide pictures, and the estimate from the contractor you have chosen to work with.
Step 4: Request an insurance adjuster inspection. Insist your contractor is present during the adjuster inspection. Your contractor's job is to make sure the adjuster plays fair, and provides you with a fair assessment. Remember, the insurance adjuster works for the insurance company and may have an incentive to deny your claim, if they think they can.
Step 5: If your claim is denied, don't worry. You are entitled to meet with three insurance adjusters. Remember, even a small amount of damage should result in an approved claim. Any type of damage can devalue your home and damage should be fixed immediately before it leads to greater damage down the road.
Step 6: Once your claim is approved your insurance company will send you 2 separate payments. The first payment, or materials deposit, covers the cost of materials. Make sure your contractor orders materials in your name, and uses your check to pay for your materials.
Step 7: After your materials are delivered, your contractor will get to work. Any changes to the written bid should be submitted in writing for your approval. No additional payment is due until all the repairs are complete. Once your project has passed a city inspection, you will have a chance to approve the job before making final payment. Make sure the job is done to your satisfaction and your contractor signs a lien waiver, before handing over the second payment.
When filing an insurance claim, remember most state laws prohibit insurance companies from cancelling policies for filing claims in an Act of God storm damage situation. In most states insurance company cannot single you out for a rate increase. If the insurance company is going to raise rates, they have to raise everyone's rates in your area. So, if you don’t file a claim, your personal rate increase will pay for everyone else's claim except for yours.