WHAT TO DO AFTER A HURRICANE OR OTHER STORM
After a hurricane, your most basic response to all the damage you see in your home and around it is to start cleaning it up. Even if there is a tree on your roof or you have no roof, you want to start trying to put the pieces back together again. You can and should do that because it will make you feel better, but try to remember to take pictures and videotape first. Wow! That sounds like I expect the insurance company to fight me on my claim. That is exactly what I expect. When an insurance company freely and without resistance pays your claim in whole, that is the exception. Even the best of the insurance companies like State Farm will dispute your claim and make your prove your loss. Those initial pictures and videotape go a long way in demonstrating how much damage the hurricane or other storm did to your house.
Below is a step by step instruction on what to do after a hurricane or other storm. My blog also has details about these steps as well. Please contact me if you have any further questions.
- Take pictures or video. Nothing will preserve the extent of damage better for your hurricane claims with an insurance company. Your natural instinct is to start picking up the damage first and by the time the insurance adjustor arrives at your house, you have made it look as presentable as possible. Taking photos or videotape of the hurricane damage before you clean up preserves and establishes the true extent of damages your house suffered.
- Don't Clean Up First. See Step number 1 above!
- After video or photos of the hurricane are taken, you then should do what is necessary to protect your home from further damage.
- Contact your insurance agent to report your claim. At this point, after a hurricane, your insurance company will probably have a hotline or some other contact point for you to use. Since hurricanes devastate everyone in your community, you will want to be persistent. It will be difficult to get through to someone and to get responses. Stay at it. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
- Start calling every contractor you can find. Look for contractors in nearby cities 100 to 200 miles away. After a hurricane, contractors are in extreme demand. If you wait to contact a contractor until after your insurance company responds to your claim, you will be at the back of the line. You can get an estimate BEFORE the insurance adjuster evaluates your hurricane damage claim.
- Keep track of your phone, email and other contact with your homeowner insurance company. Get a calendar and write down every time you phone and get no response. Record every time you do speak to someone and keep notes of what they tell you.
- Start a file on all communications you get from the insurance company after the hurricane. Keep your calendar, notes and correspondence together along with your photos and videotape.
- Take photos and videotape of the repairs and reconstruction.
- Know your insurance timeline. The insurance company has to perform certain tasks within certain dates after you report the hurricane damage. What the insurance companies count on is that most people do not know or understand the timelines involved or that they will be patient and understanding since the insurance company is having to handle so many claims at once. You can be sure that they insurance company will depend on your kindness and never return the favor. The reason insurance companies have billions and billions of dollars is not because they are nice and pay claims. The insurance companies have billions and billions of dollars because they fight over every detail. You can win that fight if you are ready for it.
- Locate your receipts for payments of anything destroyed because the insurance company will assign a value to the item regardless of how much you actually paid for it. If you don't have a receipt, go online and determine what the current replacement cost is. The insurance company will depreciate your item based on how old it is unless you have specific endorsements otherwise, so document the cost and the condition of the item at the time you suffered the loss.