Hurricane Florence may leave a path of destruction all over the Carolinas.
If you have damage from Florence, how do you get the process started for filing an insurance claim?
Whom should you call first? How do you make sure you get all you are entitled to from your insurance company? How do you avoid being the victim of a scam? What if you don’t have flood or wind insurance?
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Here are some tips compiled from the the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and other consumer groups:
1. Report your claim as soon as possible as insurance companies generally handle them first come, first serve. Be patient, but persistent.
2. After you file the claim, be sure to write down your claim number and keep it handy for easy reference. This will help the insurance claims department find your case more easily in subsequent phone calls and emails. Take notes documenting every contact with your insurer, noting the person with whom you spoke.
3. Keep receipts for any expenses related to immediate repairs you had to make to secure your home as well as any living expenses (hotel, evacuation costs, meals) if you could not return to your home in the wake of the storm. In wind claims you should get reimbursed for such additional living expenses. If your claim is limited to flood insurance, additional living expenses are not covered.
4. When the insurance company sends out an adjuster, ask if he/she is an employee of the insurance company or an independent adjuster. If an independent adjuster, ask if they are authorized to make claim decisions and payments on behalf of your insurance company and ask for the name of the in-house company adjuster to whom the independent adjuster will be sending your information.
5. If you don’t have flood insurance, call your home insurer anyway. Some homeowner policies that exclude damage related to flooding may cover damage from water and wind damage.
6. Damage to your car from downed trees and flooding should be covered by the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance.
7. Those who traveled during Hurricane Florence or had to cut their trips short to deal with storm damage should reach out to their travel insurance provider if they bought a policy for their trip.
8. Be wary of strangers who come to your door claiming to be insurance adjusters or contractors and beware of Robocalls asking for insurance payments or personal information.
“Unfortunately, hurricanes often attract scam artists seeking to profit off people in times of crisis,’’ said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which spearheads the Consumer Protection Coalition. “Consumers who sustain damage during the storm should call their insurance company first before signing over the rights of their insurance policy to someone else.”
9. If you have no insurance, check nonprofit groups and DisasterAssistance.gov (run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to see if you qualify for aid.