On Saturday, January 9, 2016 an EF-2 tornado ravaged Cape Coral, Florida damaging hundreds of homes. With winds up to 135 mph, the tornado affected an area of almost 12-square miles which lasted only 7 minutes.
If you ever experience such an event, it is very important to take the following steps when filing an insurance claim:
1. Your initial impulse after a disaster damages your insured property is to clean up and throw away the damaged items. Resist that impulse and take the time to record the damage. Take your camera or video camera and record the tree on the roof, the collapsed ceiling in your living room, the rain-soaked mattresses, furniture and books. Record as much as possible; too many pictures are better than too few. Once your home is cleaned up, it will be easier for you to explain to the insurance company exactly what kind of damage you had if you have pictures.
2. Take immediate action to remedy any condition on your property which could lead to further damage. For instance, if you have a hole in your roof, put a tarp over it until you can make permanent repairs. Insurance policies generally require the policyholder to mitigate his damages. Discuss with your insurance adjuster whether the policy will pay for temporary repairs.
3. Inventory the damage to the building and contents. Write down everything you think is wrong with your home and give that list to the insurance adjuster. If there is a new crack in the ceiling or a leak in the kitchen, point that out. Make a list of everything that was damaged inside your home — furniture, computers, picture frames, and so on. Again – take a picture of everything. Do not discard anything before the insurance adjuster has a chance to look at it. Ask the adjuster before throwing anything away. It seems sensible to drag unsalvageable items to the curb for disposal, however, the insurance company could dispute that you owned, say, a 52-inch plasma TV if it’s already gone.
4. Provide the insurance company with the documentation it requests. Insurance policies require the policyholder to cooperate with the investigation of the claim, which includes producing certain documents or papers on request. If the policyholder fails to produce the requested documents, the insurance company may be able to refuse to pay the insurance claim on that basis. Sometimes the insurance company may request a “proof of loss,” which is a sworn statement setting out the amount of the loss. We recommend that you obtain professional advice before submitting a proof of loss.
Filing an insurance claim is often a complex and confusing process, especially when the policyholder discovers damage for which the insurance company failed to pay, or that it will cost more to repair the damage than the insurance company paid. If the insurance company denies or underpays your claim, immediately consult an experienced Public Insurance Adjuster such as Claims Aid Consultants. We will make sure you are compensated for your loss.