A major storm—be it a hurricane, tornado, or flood—is scary to live through and sometimes even more stressful to deal with after the fact. Once you’ve made sure your family, neighbors, and pets are safe, the next thing on your to-do list is ensuring that your home can be swiftly repaired from any damage it may have suffered. If you’ve recently experienced a damaging storm, or you think one may be on the horizon, here are the steps you can take to file a storm damage insurance claim and protect your property’s value.
After a storm has passed, you should only return to the property or leave the shelter of your safest room once you’re sure that there are no associated dangers. This means checking the weather report and reading up for potential hazards, like active power around a flooded area or the risk of falling trees after severe winds.
If you’re sure that it’s safe to do so, the first step is to assess any storm damage your home incurred. To file a storm damage insurance claim that gets processed quickly, you’ll want to take photographs as soon as you come across damage. Avoid moving furniture, cleaning the area, or patching any materials before documenting the damage.
Take pictures of each damaged area, and make note of any additional details that may not come through in photos, like a subfloor that is sagging after significant water damage. If, at any point, you’re unsure that the property, its crawlspace, or accessory buildings are safe to enter, leave that decision to the professionals.
Once you’ve confirmed that your home has suffered storm damage, contact your insurer right away. Depending on your insurance company, you may be able to file a claim through an app, online, or over the phone. However you decide to do it, you’ll need to have your policy number handy. If cell phone towers have been damaged, ask for a response via email and leave them with your best email address.
Especially after a major storm, your insurance company will likely be receiving a large influx of claims from others in your area. Insurance claims are not handled on a first-come, first-serve basis. Generally, insurers will help those with the most significant damage or greatest need first, but getting your claim in sooner (with all the necessary details) may get you helped faster.
If you have a family member with special needs, this may give your claim higher priority because that individual will be safest and most comfortable once they can return home. Additionally, if your property has major damage that could continue worsening (i.e., roof damage that can lead to additional damage inside the home if not taken care of), this will also give your claim greater priority.
Since you’ve already reviewed the damage to your property, you’ll be able to give a fair and accurate assessment of your property’s condition when you speak to your insurance company. Once you’re finished explaining the situation, ask for the insurance adjuster’s direct number, and the direct number of their supervisor, along with an estimated time when you can expect to be contacted about scheduling their visit. Also, ask your insurer if there are text or email alerts you can opt in to so you can stay up-to-date on the progress of your claim.
There’s a tedious process involved after filing a storm damage insurance claim. Generally, it’s a waiting game until you meet with the adjuster, and then it’s more waiting as you anxiously look forward to the settlement offer. In the meantime, most homeowners will continue to worry about their property and belongings.
While it won’t get you back into your own home any faster, most insurance companies will dispatch a trusted company to handle boarding up windows, covering damaged roofs, and sealing off entries for you. Some also offer clean-up crews, but you’ll want to be mindful of having any damaged items discarded or removed—you need proof of what was lost, so again, document everything.
After a major storm, most communities also offer some sort of emergency services. Additionally, your insurance company may have some benefits available to you, like a complimentary rental car through your auto policy if your vehicle was damaged. Look into your policy for loss-of-use coverage or community resources to help pay for temporary housing and other essentials until you get back on your feet.
Perhaps one of the most stressful parts of filing a storm damage insurance claim is having to deal with the back-and-forth between the insurance company and everyone else involved. It’s also easy to misremember or forget small details. After all, you just experienced a major storm and there are now plenty of things on your mind, including family and neighbors.
It’s in your best interest to keep a claims diary that details every time you communicate with your insurance company, the name of the person you spoke to, and what they told you. This diary can help you as you speak with different representatives at the company, and ultimately streamline your storm damage insurance claim’s settlement.
In your claims diary, take inventory of all the belongings that were damaged or lost in the storm. If you can approximate a value for these items, it will help your insurance company pay off your claim faster. And if you can find receipts, original photographs, or appraisals for artwork, jewelry, and other expensive belongings, you’ll have a firmer footing if you need to negotiate with the insurance company to get a fair offer.
As they say, hindsight is 20-20. If you’ve recently lived through a major storm, you might think it’s too late to be thinking about a better policy or partnering with a different insurance company. However, if you’ve had a less-than-pleasant experience filing your storm damage insurance claim or receiving payment, look to the silver lining and know that you can protect yourself better from here on out.
If you need help finding a fair policy from a trusted insurance company to protect you and the things you love, LemonBrew Insurance can connect you with the best options to keep your assets covered & keep some money in your pocket.