Friday, October 29, 2010

Fall 2010

Every year, winter storms across the United States cause significant property damage to homes, cars, and businesses. Understanding what information is needed for the claims process is an effective way to make the most of your insurance dollar. Here are six helpful tips to follow when filing a claim:

1. Call your insurance company as soon as possible. Let them know the extent of the storm-related damage. If you had to evacuate your home, let them know where you are staying and how you can be reached.

2. Document your loss. Make a list of your damaged property, and take photographs to substantiate your losses. If you had completed a home inventory previously, provide that information to your insurance company.

3. Keep receipts for additional living expenses (ALE). If you are unable to live in your home due to an insured disaster, your insurance company will typically provide reimbursement for additional living expenses, such as restaurant meals and hotel rooms. Save your receipts so you can submit them for reimbursement.

4. Make temporary repairs to prevent additional damage. It is your responsibility to make basic temporary repairs so that your home and belongings are not exposed to the elements and at risk of further damage. Reasonable expenses will be covered by your insurance, but it is important to keep receipts and not spend too much on repairs until after the adjuster has surveyed the damage.

5. Be organized. Good record keeping can make filing claims easier. It is important to make lists of damage, out-of-pocket expenses incurred, and the names and contact information of everyone you speak to during the claims process.

6. Don’t be the victim of a scam. It is unfortunate, but fraudulent service providers prey on disaster victims. Don’t be rushed into signing contracts. Instead, collect business cards, check references, and get written estimates for the proposed job. Never give a deposit to anyone you do not know. Remember, your insurance company is a great resource when it comes to finding reputable service providers such as roofers and contractors.


Floods and flash floods happen all across the United States. Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Flood coverage, however, is available in the form of a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program. Flood insurance is available for renters as well as homeowners.

Hurricanes, winter storms, and snow melt are common and often overlooked causes of flooding. New land development can increase flood risk, especially if the construction changes natural runoff paths. You are eligible to purchase flood insurance as long as your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Over 5.5 million people currently hold flood insurance policies in more than 20,500 communities across the United States.

If you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or high-risk area and have a federally-backed mortgage, your mortgage lender requires you to have flood insurance. In a high-risk area, your home is more than twice as likely to be damaged by flood than by fire. Last year, about 25 percent of all claims paid by the NFIP were for policies in moderate-to-low risk communities. Don’t wait for a flood season warning on the evening news to buy a policy—there is a 30-day waiting period before the coverage takes effect.

Private flood insurance is available for those who need additional insurance protection, known as “excess coverage,” over and above the basic policy, or for people whose communities do not participate in the NFIP. Some insurers have introduced special policies for high-value properties. These policies may cover homes in non-coastal areas and/or provide enhancements to traditional flood coverage.