What You Should Know About Filing a Claim After a Natural Disaster

September 10, 2019
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Dealing with the effects of a wildfire, tornado, or other natural disaster can be overwhelming.  Faced with extensive loss or damage to your home and personal property, you may be uncertain what to do next.  While it’s probably not the first thing on your mind, it’s critical to file a claim with your insurance company right away.  Taking the following steps will help you make the claims-filing process as seamless as possible.

1.  Treat It Like a Crime Scene

This might sound drastic, but it’s important to leave things in place as much as you can in order to provide full documentation of loss and damage.  Since a public adjuster may stop by to do an assessment, it’s important to leave your home as is so nothing is overlooked.  You may also want to take photos and videos of your property to provide an accurate record of what happened.

2.  Verify What Is Covered

You can find this information in your homeowner’s policy, but it’s also a good idea to contact your insurer directly to clarify what’s included in your plan, the time limit for filing a claim, and how long it takes to process claims.  Your insurance company can also tell you if you need to obtain estimates for repairs ahead of time, and if your claim is likely to exceed your deductible.

3.  Find Temporary Fixes for Immediate Problems

If issues arise– such as a collapsed roof or damaged electrical wiring– that could cause additional damage, make the necessary repairs as soon as possible to prevent further harm.  Save your receipts so you can be reimbursed by your insurer later.  Compare quotes from several contractors to minimize the likelihood that you’ll be overcharged for service. 

4.  Keep a Record of Relocation Costs

Sometimes damage is so severe that you have to move out of your home while it’s being rebuilt or repaired.  Homeowners policies typically cover temporary living expenses in such cases, so keep up with receipts related to your move.  Loss-of-use coverage includes more than just the cost of having a roof over your head.  Consider additional expenses you may incur, if, for example, you have to stay at a hotel while damage restoration is underway.  Since you’ll be lucky to even have a microwave or small refrigerator in your room, you will probably be patronizing local restaurants quite a bit.  Hang onto those receipts, too.

5.  Complete the Paperwork

Your insurer will give you all the forms you need to fill out related to your claim.  Be sure to provide the required information thoroughly and accurately.  It’s critical to submit completed forms in a timely manner to avoid delays in processing and ensure you don’t exceed the time limit for claims-filing.  Keep up with your claim’s reference number in case you need to follow up while it’s in progress.

While getting back on your feet after a natural disaster can be stressful, knowing what to report to a public adjuster can go a long way toward ensuring that you receive fair compensation.