Insurance Information Institute
An ongoing hurricane season, flooding in Texas and wildfires in Colorado are reminders that consumers need to understand the claims process, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
Standard homeowners insurance policies cover damage caused by wind, fire and many other disasters. Policies also include coverage for additional living expenses (ALE), which pays the additional costs of temporarily living away from your home if it is uninhabitable due to an insured disaster. ALE covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while your home is being rebuilt. It is important to keep receipts for all of these expenses so that you can supply the information to your insurance company.
The I.I.I. offers the following suggestions to policyholders whose property has been damaged:
- Be prepared to give your agent or insurance company representative a description of the damage. Your agent will report the loss to your insurance company or to a qualified adjuster who will contact you as soon as possible to arrange to inspect the damage. If you have to evacuate, make sure to give your agent a telephone number where you can be reached.
- Take photos of the damaged areas. These will help you with the claims process and will assist the adjuster in the investigation.
- If you do not already have one, prepare a detailed inventory of all damaged or destroyed personal property. The I.I.I. has free, online software that can help make this process quick and easy—it is available at KnowYourStuff.org. Be sure to make two copies, one for yourself and one for the adjuster. Your list should be as complete as possible, including a description of the items, dates of purchase or approximate age, cost at time of purchase and estimated replacement cost.
- Collect canceled checks, invoices, receipts or other papers that will assist the adjuster in obtaining the value of the damaged or destroyed property.
- Make whatever temporary repairs are needed to protect your home from further damage and from causing injury to you and others. Cover holes in the roof, walls, doors and windows with plastic or boards to prevent further destruction. Be careful not to risk your own safety in making the repairs—hire someone to make them if necessary. Do not make extensive permanent repairs until after the claims adjuster has been to your home and assessed the damage. Save receipts for any supplies and materials you purchase, and make copies of the bills for your records. Your insurance company will reimburse any reasonable expenses incurred in making temporary repairs.
- Secure a detailed estimate for permanent repairs to your home from a reliable contractor and give it to the adjuster. The estimate should contain the proposed repairs, repair costs and replacement prices.
Serious losses will be given priority. All losses will be adjusted and claims paid as quickly as possible but hardship cases are usually handled first. If your home or business has been destroyed or seriously damaged, your agent will do everything possible to assure you are given priority.
The Institute for Business & Home Safety has information on what homeowners and business owners can do to protect their property against windstorms on their website, DisasterSafety.org.