How to handle post-Hurricane Irene insurance claims
Hurricane Irene may have been downgraded to a tropical storm before departing the eastern United States, but the flood damage left in its wake was severe. As families attempt to piece together the broken pieces of their homes and belongings, the flood of homeowners insurance claims begins. For the relative few who have flood insurance, here are some tips for dealing with insurance claims.
What Hurricane Irene victims should do immediately
After you’ve notified your homeowners insurance company, insurance experts advise those who have suffered disaster losses during catastrophes like Hurricane Irene to pause before attempting repairs.
“As much as somebody wants to jump in and do something now, you need to step back a little bit, take a breath, get your wits about you before you start making decisions,” said CPA Michael Eisenberg of Eisenberg Financial Advisors of Los Angeles.
By not jumping at the first contractor you see, you avoid the potential for being scammed.
“You want to gather your facts, talk to a few different contractors,” he said.
If you can no longer inhabit your home, find out if your insurance policy covers hotel or rental expense. Again, don’t assume you’re only entitled to peanuts. Work with your insurer to get the best deal possible. There may even be coverage for food spoilage, but you won’t necessarily know unless you check the fine print.
Make a detailed claim
The next thing you should do is record the flood and wind damage to your property in as much detail as possible, provided you can safely enter the property. Write up a list and take video footage so that it is clear to your insurer what has been lost to flood damage. If you can’t remember what material possessions were lost, the Red Cross suggests browsing the aisles of a department store or retail catalog. Talk to friends and family, too. They may have copies of important photographs from which you can obtain prints.
Make sure the claims adjuster can find you
Your homeowners insurance claims adjuster should have all cellphone and back-up contacts, ideally well ahead of time. Assuming it is safe to do so, meet the adjuster at your property. In disaster areas like those left behind by Hurricane Irene, adjusters will view countless homes. Your presence is security against them missing something about your insurance claim. When everything is done, keep all records and receipts. If you disagree with the adjuster’s findings and are not bound by arbitration agreements, don’t sign off on the paperwork. Get a lawyer and file a complaint with your state’s insurance department.
Other hurricane money matters
- Remember that disaster victims are entitled to itemized deductions for losses that are not reimbursed by your insurance provider. Any losses you declare on your taxes must be reduced by $100 plus 10 percent of adjusted gross income, too.
- Shut off your utilities if the home is unlivable.
- Let your creditors know if you’re going to be late with payments.