Posted : 09/12/2008
If you read our articles on hurricane season and car insurance and what to do just before and during a storm, hopefully you, your house, and your car are safe. If you followed the tips but still sustained damages, here are some ways to make the claims process easier.
Preparing for Your Claim
As Dostoyevsky said, "You are wise to provide yourself with what you need, for it will all come in handy in the future." With the knowledge that a hurricane is on the way, you can actually get a few things ready in advance. Knowing your deductible and what's covered by your insurance policies will let you anticipate your expenses and what to ask your insurance company to pay for.
If you were able to collect your car and insurance documents before the storm, having these things will really help when your insurance company asks about them. If you weren't able to gather documents in advance, try to collect as much of this information as possible before you call to make your claim. You can expect that your car insurance company will want your policy number, car registration and VIN to start your claim.
If your home was damaged, your homeowners insurance company will want to know the details of the damage. If you have a home inventory, you can use this as documentation of the age, price, brand, and other details of the items or parts of your home that were damaged. Otherwise, your homeowners insurance company will need this information. Visit the website of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) to get free home inventory software that helps you create and maintain a list of your belongings. In addition, take pictures of any damage for future reference, and save any receipts or documents related to home or car repair, or towing.
Contacting Your Insurance Company
After you've gathered your details and completed your initial documentation of the damage, it's time to contact your car or homeowners insurance company. If you need your insurance company's contact information and you have Internet access, check the company's website for special hotlines for claims or assistance in your area. If your company provides a dedicated phone number for your situation, try to use it instead of a general claims number. Many insurance companies also include lists of helpful links on their sites, for car rental, or checking on the status of your claim.
Make sure to notify your insurance company about car or home damage as soon as you safely can after a hurricane. Be aware that many people will be making claims at this time, and the insurance company has its hands full. For this reason, insure that you verify your deductibles and what's covered with the insurance company so that you're reimbursed for as much as possible. Ask if you have any other options or if anything else is covered.
Your company may first want to know if your house is too damaged to live in, or if your vehicle is too damaged to drive. This may help them prioritize their response.
If you've temporarily relocated because of the storm, make sure you give the insurance company your new address and/or phone number. Otherwise, they won't be able to contact you about your claim.
Repairs to Your Car or Home
Your safety is paramount. Make whatever emergency repairs you need to keep you and your family safe and sheltered as soon as possible, even if you can't contact your insurance company. It's very likely that they'll reimburse your expenses if they're reasonable and necessary.
If it's safe to do so, remove water from your house or car and temporarily repair any holes so that more water can't enter.
If your car was flooded, try not to drive it. Instead, have it towed to a reputable mechanic with experience in examining and repairing flooded cars. If the flooding was minimal, it's often possible to have the car repaired. Most insurance companies will guarantee your satisfaction with the repairs if you use a recommended repair shop, and many will help you arrange towing and repair.
Your car insurance company will arrange for a claims representative, or adjuster, to review the damage to your car and provide an estimate of how much it will cost to repair or how much the car was worth if it can't be repaired. You may want to work with the adjuster and repair shop to match the repair estimate with the insurance payment, if your car insurance company does not handle the repair process.
The process is similar for homeowners insurance claims (although hopefully no towing is involved). Your insurance company may be able to recommend a contractor in your area who is experienced in home repairs. The company will usually send an adjuster out to determine the amount of damage done, and then authorize repairs up to a certain price. If your house is severely damaged and can't be lived in, you may be able to get money for temporary lodging, if your policy provides it, so be sure to ask about it. Although no one wants to have to use their insurance, hopefully these tips will make it easier if the time comes.
If you have any questions or comments, please let us know!
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