INSURANCE INFORMATION INSTITUTE
New York Press Office: (212) 346-5500; firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW YORK, August 29, 2011— If Hurricane Irene damaged your property, it is likely the first thing you did was contact your insurance company to file a claim. They advised you to take reasonable steps to protect your property from further damage, and now you are looking forward to a visit from the claims adjuster who will help you get your life back to normal. There are steps you can take now to make the most of the adjuster’s visit and get your damaged property repaired or replaced, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
An insurance adjuster is professionally trained and licensed to assess damage, and different types of claims may require the specialized knowledge of various claims adjusters, so there could be more than one adjuster assigned to help you. For example, you may have a claims professional assess structural damage, a contents specialist to help with the loss of personal property, and an adjuster to inspect damage to your car. Additionally, if you have a flood insurance policy or separate coverage for wind damage through a state-run insurance pool, there may be yet another claims adjuster assigned.
After you report your claim, the insurance company will either send you a proof of loss form or schedule an appointment to have the damage inspected. In either case, the more information you have about your damage the faster your claim will generally be settled.
Keep in mind that insurance companies do not necessarily handle claims in the order in which they are received, so if you phoned in a claim while the hurricane winds were still blowing, that does not put you at the head of the line. Adjusters are assigned to handle claims based on the severity of the damage, so those people with the most damage are seen first.
“Following a natural disaster, insurers are dealing with hundreds or, perhaps, thousands of claims,” said Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president for Public Affairs and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. “Policyholders who have been most severely impacted have immediate financial and safety concerns that must be tended to, particularly if a home was destroyed by the hurricane or if there is a family member with special needs. Insurers give these cases priority review.”
Here are some tips to help you prepare for the claims process:
1. Make sure your insurance company knows how to reach you. Provide your cell phone number and back-up contacts, if they are available. If at all possible, you should try to meet the claims adjuster at your property, providing it is safe to do so.
2. Complete a proof of loss form in advance and bring home inventory documents. The more information you have about your damaged possessions the faster your claim will be settled. If you completed a home inventory in advance of the storm, this will be a valuable tool as you will need to make a list of all damaged items to give your claims adjuster. This will include make and model numbers of your possessions, purchase dates and the price you paid. Most insurers have home inventory forms you can use to complete this step. You will also want to make a list of any damage you want to show the adjuster.
3. Photograph debris or destroyed items, and ask your insurer if debris can be removed. Generally, you should not throw away any damaged items until the claims adjuster has visited. It is also a good idea to photograph or take video of the property damage. Many insurers have the ability to accept this photographic documentation online.
4. Know that the first claims check you receive is often an advance, not a final settlement. You may be offered a settlement check from the adjuster on the initial visit. If so, you can accept it immediately, and if other damage is discovered within the timeframe stated in your insurance policy, the claim can be reopened. Most states allow at least one year from the date of the disaster to file or reopen a claim, and some states allow more time.
You may receive three separate checks from your insurer: one for damage to the structure, one for losses related to personal belongings and a third check for additional living expenses that you incur while home is being repaired.
The time it takes to complete the claims process depends on the extent of the damage and the availability of contractors and resources to repair your home. Once you have reported your claim, you can check on its status with your insurer by phone or online.
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