How to Make an Insurance Claim After a Hurricane
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. With extreme weather events rising, it’s important to educate yourself on how hurricane insurance claims work before it’s too late.
How do you make an insurance claim after a hurricane? What does insurance cover – and not cover – after a hurricane? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about hurricane insurance claims and how they work.
Tip Before The Storm: If a hurricane is approaching your area, it is always best to document everything in your home before you leave or the hurricane arrives. This includes a video of each room, including garages, closets and cabinets. Take photos of any electronics and appliances, to include model and serial numbers. Back this information up on a hard drive, flash drive or memory card and take it with you if you leave.
1) Contact Your Insurance Company
Upon returning to your home, secure the scene and make sure all people and pets are safe, contact your insurance company.
Your insurance company can advise you on the next steps to take. They might recommend a specific restoration contractor, start the claim, or send an insurance adjuster to your location.
Your insurer can answer any questions you have about your claim – like how much your deductible is, what is and isn’t covered, and what to document. You’ll need this information to move onto the next steps.
Note: If a hurricane has caused significant damage to your area, then your insurance company could have a backlog of calls from homeowners trying to make a claim. In many cases, insurers set up mobile claim processing points in your area to process a large number of claims from a single disaster at once.
2) Document Everything
The more documentation you have, the smoother your hurricane insurance claim will be – and the faster you’ll receive a payout.
If safe to do so, document hurricane damage around your home. Take photos and videos of all damaged parts of your home, damaged items, and other relevant items.
Some tips for documenting hurricane damage in the early days after a disaster include:
- Take photos and videos of all damaged property, including damaged parts of your home, furniture, and other items. Before moving anything, take photos and videos again of your home and the contents in its exact condition and location. Be sure to take photos of any debris, water lines or missing parts of your home. An overall view of items and then a close up of the damage are preferred by most insurance companies.
- Keep a spreadsheet or list with all damaged items; that list should name the type of damage, the estimated value of the item, and the approximate purchase date for each item. Do not throw anything away until you have an approved estimate in writing. Contents are often denied or disputed if you don’t have the proper documentation.
- Document all conversations between yourself and your adjuster (take notes on the topics discussed along with the date and time of the conversation). If possible, it is best to communicate with them through email so that you have written documentation of what you have been instructed to do.
- Keep receipts from restoration contractors, roofers, landscapers, tree care professionals, and anyone else working around your home in the days following a hurricane. Do not pay anyone in cash as you will be expected to show “verifiable proof of payment” to get your full insurance proceeds.
- Keep all receipts from food, hotel accommodations, rental cars, and other costs in the days following the hurricane, assuming you are forced to move out of your home during repairs. If you have Additional Living Expense coverage these items will be refunded to you.
Some careful homeowners already have a home inventory, or a list of items of value in your home. A good home inventory can save you time after a major claim – like a hurricane or house fire. If you’re preparing for hurricane season, or if a hurricane is approaching, consider making an inventory of items in your house, their approximate purchase date, and their estimated value.
3) Check your Homeowners Insurance Policy for Coverages, Limits, and Exclusions
A standard homeowners insurance policy covers hurricane damage as long as you are not in a “windstorm designated area”, which is typically about 30 miles inland from the coast . Hurricane damage falls under windstorm damage and coastal communities require a special policy.
However, many homeowners insurance policies also have exclusions. You might see an exclusion for wind-driven rain damage, for example, or for flood damage. Homeowners insurance policies may cover rain and windstorm damage, but most don’t cover flood damage.
Check your homeowners insurance policy and make sure you understand the following areas:
- Check for dwelling coverage. Dwelling coverage covers the cost of repairing or replacing your home. If a hurricane damaged or destroyed your home, then you can make a claim under dwelling coverage up to the limits of your policy. Check your dwelling coverage policy limit to see the maximum possible amount of compensation.
- Check for other structures coverage or coverage B. Your homeowners insurance policy could cover the cost of repairing or replacing other structures in and around your home, including separate garages or outbuildings like sheds. Many homeowners insurance policies extend 10% of dwelling coverage to other structures coverage. If you have $400,000 of dwelling coverage, for example, then you might have $40,000 of coverage for other structures.
- Check your personal property coverage limit and replacement rules. Personal property coverage covers the items in your home – like your TV and couch. It’s typically valued at 50% to 70% of dwelling coverage.
- Look for additional living expense (ALE) coverage and limits. If a hurricane has made your house unlivable, then you may need to spend days or weeks in a hotel. A standard homeowners insurance policy includes coverage for additional living expenses (ALE). These are extra costs you must pay as a result of a covered event – like a hurricane. Check your policy to verify your ALE limits. Then, track your expenses to ensure you’re maximizing your payout.
- See if you have a different hurricane deductible. Many insurance companies, particularly in hurricane-prone areas, use a different deductible for hurricanes. An ordinary homeowners insurance deductible may be $2,500 flat fee or a percentage of your policy, like 1%, but a hurricane deductible could be 2% to 10% of the value of your home. The closer you are to the coast, the higher this deductible tends to be. Generally, you can expect to pay significantly more for your hurricane deductible than you would for an ordinary home insurance deductible.
4) Work with Your Insurance Company to Move Forward
Over the coming days and weeks, your insurance company and adjuster should work with you to repair the home to pre-loss condition. Or, if your home was destroyed, you might receive a check for the value of the home and all contents inside, up to the limits of your policy.
Ideally, you and your insurance company’s adjuster have a good relationship. The adjuster responds to your requests promptly and applies your insurance coverage fairly.
Unfortunately, hurricane insurance claims can be messy. Insurance companies hate hurricanes. A single hurricane can cost an insurer billions of dollars. The insurer likely wants to reduce your payout as much as they legally can – so they may pushback against certain parts of your claim.
5) Hire a Public Adjuster to Maximize Claim Payout
Generally, insurance experts recommend hiring a public adjuster for large claims or large disputed amounts. The larger your claim, the more you have to lose to your insurer – and the more you have to gain by hiring a public adjuster.
A public adjuster works for you – not the insurance company. The public adjuster negotiates with the insurer, oversees repairs, and provides documentation to maximize your claim and increase your payout.
- Consider hiring a public adjuster in all of the following situations following an insurance claim:
- You have a large claim or extensive property damage
- The insurance company is offering you significantly less than you expected
- There is a large disputed amount on your claim, and you believe your insurer should cover this amount
- Your claim is complex and you need extra help on your side
- Your insurance company is taking advantage of you, treating you unfairly, or acting in bad faith
In all of these situations, it may be in your best interest to hire a public adjuster for your insurance claim. Schedule a free consultation with ClaimsMate today to learn more how about how an expert public adjuster can help with your hurricane damage insurance claim.