It is a blessing we typically have plenty of time to prepare for a hurricane, but it can also lead us to procrastinate or possibly underestimate the amount of damage a storm can generate.  Of course, it is better to overprepare than to be scrambling last minute, but sometimes natural disasters - like flash floods or tornadoes - don’t give us any warning.  Knowing how to prepare yourself and your property is important, but we have noticed knowing how to handle a claim once it happens is sometimes overlooked as part of the preparation process.  It is important to understand the steps ahead of time so you can protect yourself from fraud or damaging delays.

If you experience an incident that results in a claim, the first thing you need to do is make sure everyone is safe.  Call emergency services if you are in need of their assistance.  Once it is safe, you can assess the damage and start the process.  

  1. Take photographs and video showing your property damage.
  2. If it is safe to do so, try to mitigate further damage by protecting your property.  Be sure to use gloves & protective eyewear or hire professionals if necessary.  Keep receipts for any expenditures as you could possibly be reimbursed.
    1. Turn off your water, power, and/or gas
    2. Secure broken windows and clean up any broken glass
    3. Tarp any holes in your roof
    4. Soak up water and move water damaged property outside to prevent mold damage
  3. Call your insurance provider to report your loss and start a claim.  You will need the following:
    1. The name of your insurance provider and their phone number
    2. Your policy number
    3. The date of loss – when the incident that caused the claim started
    4. Your personal contact information
    5. A general description of the claim – what happened/is happening, what part of your home is affected
  4. You will be assigned a claim number.  We recommend you write down the claim number and the name of the person assisting you.
  5. Your claims adjuster will be in touch with the next step – keep their contact information on file so you can follow up with them on the status of your claim.
  6. Delays in the process can be prevented by consistent communication.  Be sure to respond to your adjuster, inspectors, and contractors quickly so they can complete their work behind the scenes. 
  7. An inspector will be assigned to your claim and will come to your property to document the damages.
  8. If further investigation needs to take place, the inspector will make a recommendation to your adjuster and your adjuster will inform you.
  9. Once all inspections are completed and the report is submitted, your adjuster will be in touch regarding the claim approval/denial & any applicable payment arrangements.
    1. Something to note, if you have a mortgage, by law, claim payment checks must be made out to the mortgage holder.  Have their information and your loan number on file in case you need to supply it.
  10. While you are waiting to hear back from the adjuster, make arrangements for contractors to provide quotes/estimates to repair/replace the damaged property.  We recommend at least 2 so you can compare and choose which company you would like to move forward with, and to confirm the estimates have similar pricing and recommendations.
  11. Gather samples of materials around your house that will be needed to replace your property – flooring, paint, fabric, etc.  (This is when the inventory we mentioned before will come in handy!)
  12. Once you receive the approval and payment information, you can begin the restoration process with your contractor(s).
    1. Keep receipts and invoices on file so you can provide proof of the completed repairs.
Something we also want to mention is to beware of anyone approaching you about signing an Assignment of Benefit.  While it does provide the benefit of not having to be in constant contact with your insurance company, the authority you will be signing away is incredibly risky.  Unfortunately, there are too many instances of claim money disappearing and insureds being left with unresolved repairs and no funds to fix them to ignore.  The Assignment of Benefit gives the contractor full authority to act on your behalf, which has led to inflated claim amounts, unfinished jobs, and even stolen funds.

To summarize - protect yourself, protect your property, report the loss as soon as possible, and as always, we are here to help if you have any questions along the way!  

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LSJ Insurance Agency Inc., Insurance Agency, Maitland, FL