It’s extremely important to file your hurricane or storm related claim as soon as possible. Documenting damages with receipts and photographs is critical. These are some key steps:
1. LOCATE ALL INSURANCE POLICIES
Different policies may provide benefits for storm damages:
HOMEOWNERS’ INSURANCE: this coverage will usually pay for certain windstorm damages subject to the deductible and policy limit. Most Florida residents are required to pay for a separate windstorm policy as a rider to the standard homeowners’ coverage. This coverage is intended to pay for damages from wind or wind-blown water. Common claims under this coverage would include blown off shingles, downed trees, shattered windows and rain entering the building or home because of wind damage (such as roof damage or broken windows).
FLOOD INSURANCE: Generally, homeowners’ insurance does not cover damage from flooding such as from a storm surge, water from a swollen lake or canal or pooling from heavy rain. That kind of damage is paid under a separate flood policy. These policies will typically cover damage to your home or building as well as its contents. The policies are intended to protect the building and utilities, including wiring and plumbing, shelving, plumbing and some appliances. Flood policies include a hurricane deductible. The deductible is applied on an annual basis so if you had to submit multiple claims for several storms, the insurance company can only charge the deductible once a calendar year.
CAR INSURANCE: Most car insurance policies include collision and comprehensive coverage. Collision covers damage to a car after a collision if it hits another car or object. This coverage would pay for damages if your car were to hydroplane from rain after a storm. The comprehensive portion of this insurance will pay for repairs or total loss to a car that were caused by winds and water from hurricanes and tropical storms.
2. DOCUMENT ALL DAMAGES TO YOUR PROPERTY AND BELONGINGS
Photographs and video showing damages to the building and contents will be critically important. All receipts for storm-related purchases need to be preserved.
3. CALL YOUR INSURANCE AGENT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
All insurance polices require prompt reporting of claims. An insurance carrier can try to deny a claim saying it was prejudiced by late reporting. Under the law in Florida, it’s up to the property owner to prove that the insurance carrier was not prejudiced by the late reporting. It’s important to make the call as soon as possible.
4. COVER THE DAMAGED AREAS THAT MAY BE EXPOSED AND REMOVE WATER-LOGGED ITEMS
Getting the insurance company to pay for storm damage can take weeks or months. In the meantime, cover the damaged areas that may be exposed. If possible, remove water-logged items from the property to prevent the spread of mold. Take photos of the steps you are taking to avoid additional damage. Insurance carriers often try to avoid or reduce payment by claiming the homeowner did not act reasonably in minimizing additional damage once a storm passed.
5. HELP FROM FEMA
Federal aid assistance may be available through the FEMA program. In general, individuals and families in a declared disaster area are eligible if their essential property has been damaged or destroyed and the losses are not covered by insurance. Several factors are considered for eligibility. There’s a 60 day window from the disaster to apply for assistance. To learn more, call the FEMA helpline line 1-800-621-3362 or go online to www.disasterassistance.gov.