Hurricane Harvey devastated our community causing catastrophic flooding throughout our area damaging our homes, cars and personal belongings. It is not always clear what the next step is after our property is damaged by a hurricane, windstorm or flood. Filing an insurance claim can often be a frustrating and confusing process. To assist you in this process we have provided some tips below.
When submitting your claims for damages sustained by Hurricane Harvey, follow these helpful tips:
- Make sure your property is safe before starting to assess damage; cut off utilities if necessary but then seek to restore air circulation as soon as it is safe to do so.
- Thoroughly document your efforts. Take photographs of your belongings as they were before you move them. Keep a list of all damage you find. Take plenty of video.
- Remove all belongings from water or exposure to the elements. Make whatever temporary repairs you reasonably can in order to minimize further damage. Keep receipts and time records for these efforts. Also keep receipts for evacuation costs, hotels, gasoline, and food spoilage, as some policies may cover these expenses as well.
- Once you have stabilized things, create a record of the damages. Make a list of all items that have been damaged or lost. Include a description of the item, when you purchased it, what was paid, receipts, etc., if you have that information. Don’t throw away any property until the adjuster has visited and looked at the property and given the OK to do so.
- If in doubt as to whether an item was damaged, include it as part of your claim. Tile floors may need to be taken up to see if mold has started to grow. Wet wooden furniture may (or may not) have lasting damage. List it all as part of your claim, if it turns out that no damage develops you can withdraw it at a later date. Bear in mind that the Adjuster may be able to see damage that you can’t, so don’t say “this is all there is,” better to say “this is all that I was able to notice, but there may be more that is beyond my knowledge or expertise.”
- Make sure you are home when the Adjuster comes. Point out every bit of damage. Give copies of your list of damages and documentation. (Keep a copy for yourself). Get the adjuster’s phone number and email address and communicate by email or in writing so there is a record of what they have been told.
- Document every contact with your insurance company, including dates, times, name of person you talked with, and all that was discussed. Send follow up emails to summarize or confirm what took place in each discussion.
- Do everything you can to get communications from the adjuster in writing. If the adjuster tells you it is OK to start repairs or to discard property, try to get it in writing or at least send an email confirming that this is what you were told.
- Don’t forget that the adjuster, even if not directly an employee of the insurance company, is getting paid by the insurance company, not by you. One of our clients has relayed to us a conversation where the adjuster told him that he would try to “help out” the client by writing an estimate for less than a total loss, “because the insurance company wasn’t going to pay a total loss, but might pay faster if it was less than total.” Independent adjusters can be found to provide an objective evaluation if your adjuster is trying any funny business.
- Be aware of claims filing deadlines. For instance, the Standard Flood Insurance Policy requires a Proof of Loss to be filed in writing with supporting documentation within 60 days of the date of loss. (Update- The deadline has been extended and additional 60 days so the filing deadline is now 120 days from the date of loss.)
- If you disagree with the adjuster’s estimate, do NOT sign a Proof of Loss or similar document. If you must sign some kind of an acknowledgment, be sure to note that this is incomplete or disputed and that there are other damages beyond what the adjuster or insurance company has agreed to cover. Be aware that a check issued “in full and final payment” or with similar language might close your claim if you deposit it. If you have any question about a document or check you are being asked to sign, consult with an attorney before signing it.
If you experience delayed, denied or underpaid issues with your insurance company regarding your insurance claim, please call Reaud, Morgan & Quinn at (409) 838-1000 or fill out the form above. Our firm has incomparable expertise when it comes to insurance law and we will fight for you.
Once again we are sorry for the devastation that has befallen our area. Our prayers are for each of you and your family members to remain safe and healthy.