You’re a part of the process, so step forward and be ready to participate

Harvey, Irma, and Ned. This trio of hurricanes has caused many of us a certain amount of grief and frustration—either in the form of stress in preparation, or in the recovery process afterwards. You’ve probably already filed an insurance claim if you experienced damage from Hurricane Irma. But, what if you’re only just now discovering a problem that your insurance should take care of?

The Consumer Federation of America estimates that Irma will result in 450,000 insurance claims. Two thirds of those will be related to wind damage, while the remainder will be related to flooding. FEMA-covered flood claims may reach $15 billion. Insurance claims related to wind damage are likely to eclipse the $25 billion paid after Hurricane Andrew. Here’s what you need to know if you need to file a claim and haven’t yet done so.

Do it right now!

The sense of urgency isn’t necessarily because there’s a deadline to make a claim looming over your head. The line in front of you, however, will continue to lengthen. Your insurance company likely handles claims on a first-come, first-served basis.

In the case of Hurricane Irma, adjusters were already overwhelmed with claims from Hurricane Harvey. So, there’s already a built-in wait.

Remember that your insurance company is on your side. Long waits on the phone and a generally lessened level of promptness is par for the course after a natural disaster such as a hurricane. Pair patience with persistence.

Keep reference items handy

Once the claim is filed, keep your claim number handy. Snap a pic of it with your smartphone. Depending on the type and severity of damage, you may receive multiple calls or emails from your insurance company related the claim.

You want to keep the momentum going forward, and your claim number is going to be a main reference point. It’s also a good idea to document interactions with your insurer. Several people may be assisting you, and they’ll appreciate it when you’ve got notes to help keep things straight.

Stash away those receipts

Assume everything you have to pay for to secure your home and make immediate repairs are reimbursable by your insurance company. Not all of them may be, but you’ll need a receipt to document the expense either way.

Some of those expenses may not actually be related to a damage claim. The cost of evacuation, meals, and hotel accommodations, for example, will need receipt documentation if you file a claim.

Working with an adjuster

Filing a claim with your insurance company will result in a visit by an adjuster. It’s their job to view and determine the extent of the damage. Besides your agent, this adjuster is the conduit between you and a successful insurance claim. It’s in your best interests to keep this relationship amiable.

It’s also in your best interests to find out an important piece of information about the adjuster assigned to your insurance claim. Ask if this person is an employee of your insurance company, or if they are an independent adjuster. One isn’t preferable over the other, so the answer won’t disappoint you.

If it’s an independent adjuster, it’s important for you to know whether they are authorized to make decisions on behalf of your insurance company. If they are not, it means they’re going to relay information to an adjuster who actually does work for and can make claim decisions on behalf of your insurance company.

In other words, you may not actually be dealing with a decision-maker. These people are no less qualified to make damage assessments; however, they’re not going to determine the claim amount based on what they see. After large storms like Irma, insurance companies often hire independent adjusters to help them with the surge of claims.

Check credentials

Hurricanes and other natural disasters put people under a lot of stress. This is the perfect time for scam artists to strike—especially because of the amount of money involved in claims that will cover catastrophic damage.

Think about it: Your insurance company has a whole lot of extra work to do after Irma. It’s highly unlikely that they’d send one of their insurance adjusters to your door to file a claim. If anyone makes an uninitiated contact with you, reach out immediately to your insurance company to find out if this connection is legitimate before you offer any information.

When in doubt, contact the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Consumer Services Insurance Consumer Helpline at 877-693-5236.

Avante Insurance is a South Florida family owned and operated insurance agency providing an array of insurance services to meet the individual needs of our customers. If you need any information on insurance, you can call us at 305-648-7070, request an insurance quote, or contact us with any questions or comments.