10 Things Homeowners Need to Know About Weather Claims
After a major weather event, our agency receives calls from customers asking if it makes sense for them to file a weather claim on their insurance if their home is damaged by the effects of the storm. We see everything from falling limbs on homes to hail damage. Weather events can also put you at risk to have a fire on your property. Sometimes the damage to a home is so severe, residents must seek temporary shelter, and are asking if their homeowners policy cover that cost. There are a lot of things people do not realize about weather claims until they are effected. Just knowing some basic pieces of information upfront can ease the angst if you have a catastrophic claim.
When the a natural disaster hits home… Important info to prepare for a potential ‘Weather Claim’ at your home:
1. One storm can possibly be categorized as multiple events requiring separate deductibles
An example of this happened in Oklahoma years ago when tornados damaged people’s roofs, then a day later, rain damaged the homes that were already exposed due to the previous damage. While these issues were associated with the same weather front, they were separate claims. This can be confusing, and seem cumbersome. There are regulations in place with the insurance companies to assure that claims are processed properly for everyone’s longterm benefit.
2. There is a 30-day waiting period for flood insurance to kick in
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is administered by a group of insurance companies that were selected by FEMA to manage the program. A flood insurance policy is a separate policy that some homeowners have when there is a high probability of a flood occurring where they live. If there is a storm approaching and your property is not covered for flooding, it’s already too late to buy flood insurance. There’s a 30-day waiting period after the purchase before the coverage actually takes effect.
3. Catastrophe claims take a long time
When storms hit, almost every homeowner affected files insurance claims immediately following the event. This means that insurance company adjusters are inundated with claims, phone calls and questions. If you have ever filed a claim you know the process… it is time consuming. Imagine what happens after a storm event when many homes in a community are filing insurance claims.
4. Catastrophe adjusters can change frequently, so document everything
During widespread catastrophes, insurance companies may send in large teams of adjusters to deal with the high volume of claims. When there is a big demand for adjusters to respond to an event, it is not uncommon for some of the adjusters to be contractors who are hired on a loss-by-loss basis to handle weather disasters across the nation. This means they might not be permanent employees of the insurance firm. A changeover of adjusters during the process can be frustrating for homeowners who do not keep their own files. With anything, be your own advocate and stay organized and try to remain patient and calm through the process. We realize it is difficult to do that during a time of catastrophe so we will help as much as possible.
5. Volunteers are awesome but they can remove items and make it hard to get claims paid
Removal of debris by volunteers can be a major problem when it comes time for homeowners to submit property inventories to their insurance companies. While their intentions are good, they may be so focused on the cleanup that items are lost or thrown away in the shuffle. As much as insurance professionals appreciate the work of volunteers, they are aware that the volunteers don’t understand the insurance process. We suggest asking anyone who volunteers to assist you after a catastrophe to make a list of damaged goods rather than removing debris from your property. Perhaps a trusted volunteer could help you make copies and photos during the claims process. This will enable you to have a full inventory of your damaged belongings and avoid the frustration of not being able to show adjusters the damaged items during the process of filing a claim.
6. It is important to have an insurance agent that helps you understand your coverage
A large percentage of homeowners hit by recent hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires find out too late that they are underinsured or misunderstand what their coverage will do for them. Make sure you go over your policy with your agent and have the coverage you need. It is beneficial to deal with a local agent in your community who will return phone calls and answer your questions. Sitting down with your agent to go over your coverage is always a great idea. No question is a dumb question when it comes to understanding your insurance coverage.
7. Wildfires are treated like regular fires
A fire is a fire. Insurance policies don’t differentiate between wildfires and, say, kitchen fires.
8. Patience is everything when navigating a catastrophic claim
Weather claims can raise serious questions about what damage was caused by the storm and what was pre-existing. Your insurance policy is in place to cover replacement and repair of the parts of the structure or personal items destroyed by a weather event, not longterm structural flaws or ongoing damage resulting from poor construction or lack of home maintenance. Your adjuster will look out for you to make sure your claim is going to cover the cost of repairs caused by the event. Their job is to make sure the insurance will cover the cost of putting your home back together, the way it was before the damage. File your claim quickly after the damage occurs to make it easier for an adjuster to organize and submit a successful claim for you. Just be aware- if there was a lot of damage in your community, your adjuster might be juggling several cases. Patience will be key in giving them the time and information they need to navigate the process.
9. Insurance is hard or impossible to get right before the storm
Insurance companies place binding restrictions on new business days before a major weather event is expected to take place. What does this mean? This means that insurance is not something you go out and purchase at the last minute. Insurance is a measure of being prepared. Caught in a bind and worried about your new car or property you just bought? Call us and we’ll see what we can do. It’s good to know ahead of time that this is just the rule with insurance… you can’t purchase it when the storm is brewing.
10. Know how to file a claim, just in case
A storm damaged your home… what do you do next? Call your agent, or place a direct call to your insurance carrier if you purchased your insurance through our agency. You will be contacted by an adjuster after you start the process. It typically takes around 24 hours to hear from the adjuster, but in the event of a widespread natural disaster, this could take more than 48 hours. Be prepared to have them come out and evaluate the damage as soon as possible. You will be asked to fill out claim forms. Staying organized and following instructions with accuracy are key to making sure your claim goes smoothly. Regarding any photos, receipts or documents you provide for your insurance adjuster – make sure you have a file with your own copies of that information. Your adjuster is going to be able to answer questions related to your claim at every point in the process. Your insurance agent is always available to answer questions about your coverage.