According to the New York Times, recent natural disasters, including earthquakes and hurricanes, are expected to cost insurance companies $95 billion dollars. Not all types of insurance cover natural disaster damage, so it is often wise to consider finding the appropriate insurance before a natural disaster hits. However, if you are in an area affected by wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, or other potentially damaging natural phenomenon, at some point you may have to make a natural disaster claim. Here are ten things to consider when filing a natural disaster claim:
- Know your policy. Not all policies cover damages resulting from natural disasters. For example, not all kinds of car coverage will protect you if your car is damaged by flooding or fire. According to the Balance, you’ll need to have comprehensive coverage in order to protect your car in the event of a natural disaster. Home and apartment insurance policies may need to specifically cover natural disasters as well. For example, some insurance policies explicitly exclude flood damage. In order to be covered for flood damage, you may have to purchase a rider or another policy. It is always best to know what is and what isn’t covered before disaster strikes.
- If appropriate, make a police report. Even claims stemming from a natural disaster may have a human component. If your home was looted after a storm or if you were in a car accident due to slick roads, it is important to make a police report of any damage.
- Contact your insurer. Let your insurer know that you have sustained damage. Once you call your insurer, a claim will be opened. You also have a right to know how long it will take to process the claim.
- Fill out all forms and consider communicating with your insurance adjuster in writing. Your insurance company is required to send you any appropriate claims forms within a reasonable period of time. As you navigate the claims process, your insurance adjuster may ask you to make a statement over the phone. It is often wisest to communicate important information with your insurance company in writing. If your insurance company needs you to answer questions, these may be best addressed through a claims form. If your insurance company is pressing you to settle or to provide information over the phone that you are not comfortable about, you may want to consider speaking to a qualified insurance claim lawyer.
- Keep receipts. You may have to temporarily stay in a hotel or rent a car. In some cases, natural disaster insurance will cover the cost of clothing, sundries, and other supplies during this time. After disaster or an accident strikes, keep all receipts.
- Make a list of damaged or lost items. If you have homeowner’s insurance, it is wise to keep records and receipts for the most valuable items in your home. Consumer advocates suggest making an inventory of items in your home at least once a year. After an accident strikes, you’ll want to make a list of damaged or lost items.
- Keep an accident or disaster diary. According to the New York Times, individuals who find themselves affected by recent wildfires can protect themselves by keeping a post-disaster journal. While it can be time-consuming to keep a written record of the aftermath, keeping a journal can help you during the claims process. Documentation of everything is incredibly important. For example, you’ll want to note when you spoke to adjusters, when you filed your insurance claims forms, and dates and times when contractors came and gave you estimates for claims.
- Take photos. Don’t assume that insurance adjusters will assess all damage during your inspection. Take photos of all damage. That way, if you disagree with your insurance adjuster’s assessment, you have physical evidence of the damage.
- Make temporary repairs. You can be held liable for damage that occurs after the initial disaster if you don’t take reasonable measures to make repairs. For example, if your roof was damaged and you don’t repair it, you might not be able to collect money for water damage if the adjuster determines this damage occurred weeks after the roof damage took place. Make repairs, document them, and submit the costs to your insurer as part of your claim.
- Keep damaged items until the adjuster has a chance to assess the damage. Don’t throw anything out.
Finally, if you are not receiving the money you believe you deserve based on your claim, you may want to speak to a qualified insurance claims lawyer. USAttorneys.com can help you find an experienced insurance claim lawyer.