DISASTER CLAIMS PROCESS:
What to Expect When
Your Home is Damaged in a Disaster
following a disaster at your home will be stressful and heartbreaking.
Dealing with your insurance claim – whether you are a homeowner or a renter –
will be emotional, but should not be difficult. The National Association of
Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers this overview of what you might expect
and what you will need to file a claim after a disaster.
Following the Disaster
- To protect your property from further damage, you
should make temporary repairs or arrange for a qualified professional to
do so. Take photos of the damage and remove personal property if your
home cannot be secured. Do not dispose of property until an insurance
adjuster has reviewed it for your claim. Many policies include
reimbursement for storage costs incurred until your home is repaired.
- If you can still live in the home, talk with your
agent about critical repairs that need to be made. Whether you make the
repairs or hire someone, save the receipts for your claim.
- If you need to find other lodging, keep records of
expenses and all receipts. Homeowners and renter's insurance generally
provide limited coverage for expenses like: meals, rent, utility
installation and transportation.
- Most insurance companies have a time requirement for
filing a claim. The process will go faster if you can locate a copy of
your policy and home inventory.
- Call the company or visit a mobile claims center to
start your claim. If you cannot find the company or agent's number, call
your state insurance department. The NAIC can connect you to your state
department by calling 1-866-470-6242 or by going to http://map.naic.org.
- You will be asked to list all items destroyed,
damaged or missing. If you do not have a home
inventory, begin making a list of items going room by room from
memory. Include as much detail as possible, like where and when the item
was purchased, the cost, brand name and model.
- If your car is damaged while in your garage/carport,
it is covered by your automobile policy—not your homeowners policy. If
you are insured by two separate companies for these coverages you must
file a claim with both companies.
- Your insurance company will send an insurance
adjuster to survey the damage at no cost to you. Public adjusters may
offer the same services, but you would be responsible for any related
fees. Check to be sure they are licensed with the state insurance
department and ask for references and qualifications before retaining an
independent adjuster. To contact your state insurance department, go to http://map.naic.org.
- Do not feel rushed or pushed to agree on a
settlement. If there are disagreements, try to resolve them with your
insurer. If you cannot reach an agreement, your state insurance
department can help you decide if arbitration or mediation is an option.
- Your full claim may come in multiple payments. The
first will likely be an emergency advance and may include additional
living expenses. The payment for your personal property and any
additional living expenses will be made out to you. Payments for the
structure may be payable to you and your lienholder if there is a
mortgage on your home. Lenders may place that money in an escrow account
to pay for repairs as the work is completed.
- Fraudsters often take advantage of the chaos
following a disaster. When choosing a contractor to make repairs, check
licensing and references before hiring. Always insist on a written
estimate before repairs begin and do not sign any contracts before the adjuster
has examined the damage. In some cases the adjuster will want to see the
estimate before you begin making repairs.
- Do not pay a contractor the full amount up front or
sign over your insurance settlement payment. A contractor should expect
to be paid a percentage when the contract is signed and the remainder
when the work is completed.
- If the contractor finds hidden damage that was not
discovered in the original assessment by the adjuster, contact your
insurance company to resolve the difference. For any disagreements that
cannot be resolved, contact your state insurance department about your
- Flood and earthquake damage are not covered in a
typical homeowners or renter's policy. If you have a separate flood or
earthquake policy, contact the company that wrote the additional policy
to file your claim.
- If your insurance company delays in responding to
your claim, call the claims department to find out if an adjuster has
been assigned. Verify your contact details, especially if you have
evacuated your home. Call your state insurance department if the delay
- Even after settling your claim, if you think of items
that were not in your initial loss list, contact your insurance company.
Unless the company has paid the entire limit for the coverage of those
types of items, it is possible the company will make an additional
- If your damages exceed the amount of your coverage,
federal agencies will occasionally provide grants or low-interest loans
to assist with recovery following major disasters. Check with your local
disaster center or state insurance department for more information.
- Once you have re-established your home following the
disaster, take time to do a home inventory. You can download a home
inventory spreadsheet here to help get started. You can also download the free NAIC myHOME Scr.APP.book app for iPhone®. The app guides you through
capturing images, descriptions, bar codes and serial numbers, and
storing them electronically for safekeeping. The app even creates a
back-up file for e-mail sharing.
- Once you have completed the home inventory, talk with
your agent to make sure your homeowners or renter's policy is adequate
to cover your new investments.
have any questions about the coverages in your policy, or if you need help
with a problem regarding your claim following a disaster at your home,
contact your state insurance department. Click here to quickly find their contact information.