As New Yorkers, we know firsthand the value of disaster help, because reparations don’t come quickly in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Our experiences with Superstorm Sandy, just over a year ago, still plague us today, as many families and businesses continue to put the pieces of their lives back together. Although we know that the recovery process is long winded and frustrating, it’s important to be prepared in case of an emergency. The sooner you file your insurance claims, the sooner they can be processed so that you can receive the help you need to get back on your feet.
When Natural Disasters Strike, be Ready to Respond
Contact your insurance provider ASAP
Keeping your records organized, and being familiar with your coverage and the details of your policy, is extremely beneficial when you need to file a claim for disaster help. Many carriers offer online services, and many even have mobile phone and tablet apps. If you have to evacuate your home during an emergency, as many of us did during Sandy, you’ll be able to access your policy information anywhere that you have an internet connection. The more you know about your policy, the sooner you can call to file your claim, even if you don’t have hard copies of your policy in front of you. By reaching out as soon as you’re able, you are able to establish your conditions with your provider, starting a running list of the expenses for which you’ll need to be reimbursed, such as a hotel stay. Generally, Homeowners Insurance policies will include Loss of Use, which covers your costs of living during relocation. Be sure to keep all of your receipts as proof!
Keep a Home Inventory List—Digitally!
All insurance providers stress the importance of having a running record of everything you own, including pictures, serial numbers, and receipts if possible. By documenting everything you own, it’ll help recover the things that are lost during a disaster. It also helps to expedite your disaster help claims process, because you have all the information right in front of you. Bearing the possibility of temporary relocation in mind, keeping your inventory list in digital copy is crucial, because it’s likely that you won’t have access to hard copies of your records in an emergency situation. It’s also a good idea to keep a hard copy of your home inventory offsite, such as in a safety deposit box.
Document Home Damage
If you’ve been relocated, when it’s safe to return home, the first thing you should do is take pictures of the damage. Make sure that you take detailed photos of key structural damage to show your insurance provider. Do not make any repairs, even minor or temporary ones, until you’ve taken pictures of everything for your disaster help insurance claim.
Have an Adjuster Assess Your Damage
This is one of the most frustrating steps of the recovery process, because when widespread damage occurs, there are only so many adjusters to go around, and getting one out to your home could take a long time. That’s why having all your ducks in a row is so important, because the sooner you file your claim, the sooner an adjuster can come survey your damage so that you can start your repairs process. After an adjuster has come to evaluate your property, you can start making temporary repairs to make your home manageable. This is also when you can start getting rid of any damaged or destroyed property to make room for replacement items.
Find a Licensed, Reputable Contractor for a Repair Estimate
Don’t waste your time with anyone who isn’t going to be able to provide you with adequate service. You’ve already endured enough; getting involved with a subpar contractor is just asking for headache on top of everything you’ve already been through. Getting an estimate for repairs as soon as you’re able will be beneficial when your provider gives you a settlement offer, because it’ll prepare you to negotiate. If your estimates far exceed your provider’s offer, you’ll be able to highlight exactly why you need the amount that you do. Take detailed notes every time you speak with service providers, including the representative’s name, phone numbers, and any other necessary information.
Double Check Your Flood Coverage
Many Homeowner’s Insurance policies don’t cover flooding, so check the provisions of your policy. Oftentimes flood insurance is a separate policy, although general homeowner’s policies will cover water damage caused by rain or roof/window damage. Make sure you know what coverage you have, and secure the appropriate policies for your home.
Be Leery of Shady Characters
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who capitalize on tragedy. Beware of scam artists who will try to make you offers that seem too good to be true, such as immediate repairs for extremely low costs; these disaster help schemes often result in terrible work, hidden charges, or other forms of abuse.
Lastly, Be Patient
You didn’t acquire everything you own overnight, so don’t expect to replace it all in a day. It’ll take a lot of time for everything to return to normal, but being prepared and taking proactive measures are the only ways to stay ahead of the game when tragedy hits.