Policyholders are often faced with complicated issues and complex decisions after they
suffer a property loss from a hurricane. These decisions and issues can arise while filing a claim with your insurance company. The claim information that is presented can be crucial and the strategy used can be paramount in your settlement.
Here are some frequently asked questions posed by policyholders involved in the hurricane insurance claims process:
I have a loss. Where do I start?
Get the insurance policy. It may be multiple policies such as flood, wind and all-risk peril policies. But the insurance policy provides the framework for determining how much is going to be paid, by whom, and what you need to do to get paid.
What is the next step and what if I cannot find the policies?
The second step is to report the loss to the insurance companies involved. You must report the loss promptly even if you are unsure if the damage will exceed the deductible. Most of the time, you will report the loss to your agent with a phone call, but some policies also require a written notification or call to the special claims reporting department.
Ask and write your agent for a copy of the policy if you do not have one and get
the name of your insurance company, your policy number, and telephone number
for the company.
What will they ask me and what should I tell them when I
report the loss?
They will want to know what caused the loss, when it happened and a general description of what is damaged. If you are unsure of whether the cause of the loss is covered, we recommend you call an attorney first. Hurricane and fire claims generally are easily covered and should pose no problem. However, some agents mistakenly tell their customers that a cause of loss is excluded because the agent does not understand the policy language or the policyholder fails to give an accurate description of how the loss occurred.
After I report the loss, what else should I do while waiting for an adjuster?
Protect the property from further damage. You have an obligation to take reasonable steps to minimize, or mitigate, the loss after it happens. Most policies will reimburse you for those costs. For example, getting a tarp on a roof following a hurricane to protect the structure and contents from further damage is a type of mitigation.
What if my agent is slow to send my policy?
After major hurricanes, agents are deluged with requests for policies. They often do not have enough copies to send or are so backed up that weeks go by before a copy is sent. So, it is important to get the name of your insurance company, the policy number, the limits of coverage, and call your insurance company to request that an adjuster come out as soon as possible. Also, ask the insurance company for a “certified” copy of the policy. At the very least, ask your agent for a copy of your policy’s “Declarations Page.”
What are insurance policy Declarations Pages?
These are the unique portions of the policy that indicate the name of the insurance company that insures you, the insurance policy number issued, how much you are insured for, the deductibles chosen, and what standard forms are issued, including the endorsement forms. The Declarations Page is very important and you must at least get this, even if the rest of the policy is provided later.
How do I find out how much coverage I have?
The Declarations Page lists the basic policy limits for each coverage and the basic deductible — but do not stop looking there. Additional coverages and extensions within the policy may also exist. For example, many people purchase “Guaranteed Replacement Coverage.” This extension of additional coverage is usually found in the policy forms, or as an endorsement. You must read the policy to find out the various additional coverages you have. These are quite valuable and are often overlooked.