When hurricane or winter storm season is approaching, your preparations should begin long before the season starts. There are many benefits and fewer headaches when everything is in order before these storms. Plus, if or when you need to evacuate, there will be fewer steps to leave and less you’ll have to worry about when you’re away from home.
As much as we want to give you a step-by-step guide on filing your claim, every insurance company is different, so always make sure to double check with their policies. We want to help you be prepared for storms or other weather events, save time, and save money.
You can help your claims process go smoother. But how? It all starts with preparing for storm seasons and severe weather.
Keep your receipts. Can it be a headache to store those receipts for items in your home? Yes; but you can simplify it by saving your receipts in a small box to take with you if you need to evacuate (make sure you label these with the item you purchased, as store codes for items on a receipt may not be clear in a few months, or even years). You could also scan these receipts and store them on a digital cloud service to ensure they don’t fade or get damaged. Now, do you need to store your grocery receipt from 6 months ago? No - unless it has a brand new TV on it, then YES! Keep the receipts for your big ticket items such as TV’s, laptops, gaming systems, important pieces of artwork, home appliances, smaller appliances, furniture, clothing items or accessories, etc.
Pro tip: Take a highlighter and highlight the important items on the receipt! That will help your insurance claim if the item is damaged. You want the estimated damage to be as accurate as possible because a few hundred dollars can make a huge difference!
This next tip does not necessarily help with your insurance claim, but we wanted to add it as a reminder. Please store important documents, family photos, sentimental items, or anything else of high importance that is not replaceable in a safe area. Get a few plastic boxes that are airtight and can prevent any water from seeping through. Consider bagging these in plastic bags before placing them in your boxes for an added layer of protection. If you are in a flood zone, try to put these in the highest, or safest area you can think of. Even better, take them with you if you have the extra room when you are evacuating. Again, it’s a great idea to scan these to a cloud based service in addition to keeping these documents in a safe place, just in case your documents are damaged. Some items to include are: insurance policies, deeds, lease or renter’s agreements, vehicle registrations and proof of purchase, social security cards, marriage certificates or adoption paperwork, and any other documents to prove ownership or identity. Don’t forget vaccination records for any pets.
Pro tip: Do some prep work on your home before storms.
NEVER clean up the damage at your home. Do not clean or fix anything unless absolutely necessary. If you have a tree in the middle of your house then yes, by all means get the tree removed, but document everything in great detail. Make sure to take an excessive amount of photos at every angle you can get prior to removal or cleanup of any damage. Keep detailed receipts and contracts for the cost of cleanup. Also, do not let contractors be your liaison - YOU should be the point of contact between any contractors and your insurance company/adjuster. This will help your insurance adjuster assess the damage and quote the right price for your claim. For other damaged areas of your home, you can put up temporary structures to prevent further damage to your home. An example would be a tarp over a hole in your roof, taping up windows, etc., but no permanent structure changes until your adjuster gives you the green light!
Speaking of taking photos, take as many photos as you can. Be obnoxious, because the more evidence you have, the more accurate your assessment will be! What about taking photos prior to the storm? Well, let's say your computer was lost because of the storm, if you do not have evidence that you had the computer, it can’t be covered on the insurance claim. Receipts and photos will save you in this situation! It is best to have both, but have at least one! It is always a great idea to take plenty of photos of the exterior and interior of your home before a storm hits. These before and after photos will ensure higher accuracy with your claim. You can also take a video of your house which can be used for your claim. Walk through your home yearly and video the contents of each room and capture serial numbers and model names on items if you can.
Be ready to communicate with your adjuster. Your insurance adjuster is going to have claims coming in like waves. When they give you a call or send an email, be ready to answer as soon as possible. This will help them manage your claim quickly so that you can get your house back together. You may even be in a different state than your adjuster, so be aware of the time differences, make sure the adjuster knows your situation, and communicate! Right after a storm, power lines will be down and it may be very hard to get connected with people. Give your adjuster a few options when trying to reach you. Maybe a neighbor has a working phone or computer, and emailing is a great option, too. Just be ready when they are trying to contact you. We know things will be hectic right after the storm and you probably have a lot to do, but make sure that communicating with your adjuster is one of your top priorities!
Take away: You can always prepare for storms and be ready for your claims, but it's hard to prepare for the unexpected. Following these tips will help you be ready to file your claim, help your claims adjuster assess the damage accurately, and get your claim settled quickly!
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