The aftermath of a natural disaster can be a stressful, scary and confusing time for those who are impacted. On top of the emotional toll, many families experience damage to their home as a result of the event. If your home experiences damage from a natural disaster or weather event, here are some steps to take to help you work with your insurance company.
- Call your insurance company. If you have trouble reaching them, listen for their radio announcements and watch for signs that they are in the area. (If damage in the area is severe, they may have difficulty finding you.)
- Provide your insurer with:
- Details about the home and the extent of the loss. For example, is the house demolished, or is a section of the roof gone? This will help your insurer send the best person to handle your loss.
- An alternate contact and phone number. This is useful in case the insurance company has trouble reaching you.
- Understand that it may take time for the claims adjuster to get to you. An adjuster is a person professionally trained to assess the damage. The company may be flying in adjusters from other parts of the country, and they will need time to set up shop. In addition, they may be doing their job without power, street signs or working telephones.
- Do what you can to prevent further damage to the property. If it is safe to do so, have someone put a tarp over the damaged roof or blown-out windows, or remove a fallen tree from the house. Ask for help, or consider paying someone trustworthy to do the work. You do not have to leave the damage “as is” until the adjuster arrives! (Save receipts for home repair payments to give to your insurance company.) However, do not get permanent repairs done until the adjuster approves the price.
- Get out your home inventory. Review it for accuracy, and have the inventory available for the claims adjuster. (You’ll be awfully glad you have one!)
- Be very cautious about who you hire to repair your home! Check reputations and credentials carefully. After a disaster, many people – some of them unqualified or worse – descend on the area looking for work. Ask the claims adjuster for a recommendation before hiring anyone.
Help the adjuster help you. If you choose to delegate a member of your family to participate in the settling of the claim, that’s fine; just be sure you select one person, and not a committee (as that may make the claim settlement process more difficult and longer than it needs to be). Natural disasters can take their toll emotionally and financially, so understanding how best to work with your insurance carrier can help you get back on your feet.
For more information, review our disaster preparation guidebook.