If you are like one of the many people in North Carolina that sustained property damage during Hurricane Matthew, you may be wondering what to do next. The good news is that mobile claim centers, insurance adjusters and catastrophe personnel have already been sent to the east coast and are ready to do what they can for their customers.
The Insurance Information Institute has offered several tips for people who need to report damage to their property. Here are the tips I.I.I. has offered those affected by the storm.
1. Begin the process quickly.
The sooner you contact your insurance company, the sooner you will receive a settlement. Your insurance agent will want your policy number, address and contact information. Even if you contact your agent in the next few days, it is important to note that it is not first-come, first-serve after a devastating event such as a hurricane. Instead, adjusters and inspectors will visit properties with the most severe damage first.
If someone in your family has special needs that have been affected by the damage to your property, be sure to mention it. The health and safety of people is always a priority. Ask your insurance agent when you can reasonably expect an adjuster or inspector to arrive.
2. Begin documenting your losses.
If you haven’t done so already, start taking as many pictures as you can of the damage to your property. The insurance adjuster will take a look at things for themselves, but if you have an inventory of the things you lost, it would be helpful. Look for receipts, owner’s manuals with serial numbers or any identifying information. Knowing the make and model of your television, for example, will be more helpful than simply telling the adjuster that you had a flat screen TV.
3. Don’t throw away damaged items.
You may be tempted to throw away the things that have been damaged, but don’t. Your insurance adjuster will want to see the items if at all possible. If your local municipality is requiring that you throw damaged items away for health and safety purposes, be sure to photograph them first.
4. Sign up for text alerts.
Many insurance companies are offering customers the ability to sign up for text alerts to keep track of the status of their claims. You will get text messages when your claim is reported, when an estimate is available and when your agreed-upon payment is sent.
5. Get to know emergency services.
You will want to be aware of any emergency services that are available in your area. You may need help removing water from your home, boarding up or repairing doors and windows or more. You may also need assistance if you’ve been injured, even if said injury didn’t seem major when you sustained it. If your home has been made unlivable by Matthew, your insurance company will provide you with a check for living expenses.
6. Keep written notes.
If you aren’t good at recordkeeping, now’s a great time to become more proficient. Keeping good notes will help you simplify the claims process. Make note of every person you speak to, the date and the time. The more organized you keep yourself, the easier everything will be. Even using your voice recorder on your phone as a dictaphone can be immensely helpful.
When you make your claim, keep in mind that a hurricane deductible is not like a typical one. Most homeowner insurance policies have a deductible of $500 or $1,000. A hurricane deductible is not so standard. The average deductible is somewhere between 1 percent and 5 percent of the total amount of coverage. You should be able to find these amounts on your declarations page. Because every insurer is different, reading through your policy will help you determine what you can expect from your own.
For many people, it wasn’t only homes and structures that were affected by Hurricane Matthew. Many people sustained severe damage to their vehicles. Vehicle damage will not be covered under a home owner’s policy. If your vehicle was struck by debris or crushed by a tree or other falling object, you will need to file a claim with your auto insurance company.
Home owners often worry about flood damage after a hurricane, especially if they don’t have a flood damage rider on their policy. President Barack Obama has declared Matthew a disaster, as he did after Hurricane Sandy. Because of this declaration, home owners without flood damage coverage should have at least part of any damage from standing water covered under their normal policy. Speak to your insurance agent for the exact details.
Hurricane Matthew was a terrible storm to be sure. Thousands of people across multiple states experienced damage to their property, structures and vehicles, not to mention bodily injuries. Although it may feel like it right now, you are not alone. There is help out there for you and your family, and the first step is contacting your insurance agent. If you have questions about your policy or how to file a claim, your agent can provide the information you are looking for.