Flooding, wind, and other natural disasters often leave homes throughout the United States damaged or uninhabitable. In these instances, homeowners depend on their insurance policies to cover costs to repair those damages. This topic hits home for many on the East Coast this week due to the mass devastation Hurricane Sandy has caused. Photos and information describing the damage caused by Sandy can be found all over the Internet, but that does little to show just how much trouble these homeowners will have to encounter to get back on their feet. In recent years, homeowners' insurance companies have gotten much harsher. Rates have been increased, much coverage has been removed from plans, and new exclusions and deductibles have been introduced since the weather has become more catastrophic.
The experienced injury attorneys at Jones & Swanson strive to provide information that is helpful to citizens according to recent events and disasters, regardless of their geographic location. Below are some helpful tips for getting claims filed and paid quickly and meticulously:
- Locate your policy. Once you've gathered emergency equipment and ensured the safety of yourself and your family, you should attempt to find your homeowners' insurance policy if your home is safe to enter. This is the simplest method to determining what will be covered. In 2011 after Hurricane Irene, many insurance companies began adding large wind and hurricane deductibles to policies, which can be priced at 2-5% of the insured worth of your home. Some policies now state that damage from more than one cause, such as wind and flooding, will not be covered. Understanding your insurance coverage is the first step you should take in filing a claim.
- Pictures, pictures, pictures. Before the storm hits in full force, inventory your belongings by taking pictures all around your home. If you have access to a video camera, this method is even better than photographs because of the details involved. After the storm passes, document any damage to your home before moving anything. Take pictures as soon as possible after re-entering your home to re-catalog your belongings. If possible, you should leave the damaged goods as is until an adjuster arrives. If it is expected to take weeks to get an adjuster out to your home, make sure to at least keep all of the damaged items for them to physically look at.
- Don't count on coverage of food. Although most insurance policies cover the cost of foods that spoil in a power outage, the deductible is likely to be too high to consider paying.
- File your claim in a timely manner. By submitting your claim as quickly as possible, you may get attention faster. Most flood insurance policies also have a 60 day deadline, so file your claim right away.
- Dry your belongings after a flood. There are a variety of emergency service companies that dry and humidify your home after flooding. The equipment they use can often prevent further damage to your home, such as mold. However, make sure you contact your insurance company before paying large amounts of money for repairs. They will usually pay smaller amounts for immediate fixes like tarps, but larger amounts are refused oftentimes. It is also important to keep your receipts.
Although Hurricane Irene did not affect the state of Georgia like it did the Northern East Coast, Jones & Swanson want to help in any way we can. Fully understanding your insurance policy and making sure your insurer doesn't take advantage of you is extremely important when attempting to rebuild your life after a natural disaster. If you have any questions, contact our office today at (770) 427-5498. We will attempt to answer any concerns you may have, and if we can't we will refer you to someone who can.