Hurricanes Irma and Maria have caused massive amounts of property damage throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands. Tens of thousands of people are now in the process of filing homeowners’ insurance claims to recoup all or some of their losses.
Unfortunately, while most homeowners’ and renters’ insurance claims do cover damage caused by wind and other disasters, they typically do not cover groundwater flooding, which requires an additional policy from a private insurance company or through the National Flood Insurance program. The assistance a person can get through FEMA is also often not enough to cover all the losses sustained.
Below are some tips to help you through the process of filing an insurance claim to help you get a positive outcome:
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible: If you have been impacted by the disaster, do not wait to make your claim. Insurers often visit the most severely damaged areas first, but you can ask your provider when you can expect to hear from an adjuster. There could be backups due to the sheer amount of damage the region has sustained, so you should not expect to hear back immediately. But if you keep in constant communication with your insurance provider, you can help expedite the process.
Thoroughly document all your losses: Take as many pictures and videos as possible of the damage to your home and property. You should also make a complete list of all damaged personal items. Try to include the date of purchase of those items, the approximate value of them and, if you have them, receipts for the purchases.
Keep records of your spending: As you wait for your insurance provider to respond to your claim application, you may wish to make some temporary repairs to make your home livable again. Keep receipts and records of everything you spend to make those repairs, along with receipts for hotels, meals and other expenses incurred due to your inability to return to your home in the short term. You may get reimbursed for these expenses through your claim.
Do not discard items without checking with your provider: Your insurance adjuster may wish to see these damaged items in person if a photograph does not provide enough visual context of the damage. Thus, make sure you have written permission from your adjuster before discarding any your damaged items.
Keep a thorough claim log: Have a set of notes that has contact information for everyone you speak to about your claim. Always make a note of the date and time of conversations about your claim and the issues you discussed.
Time is of the essence when it comes to filing an insurance claim after a natural disaster. Remember these tips as you work through the process in the wake of our recent hurricanes.
Tom Bolt is Managing Attorney of BoltNagi, a widely respected and well-established business and corporate law firm serving individuals and organizations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands and is assisting in the Territory’s recovery as Chair of the Advisory Board for The Salvation Army and facilitating Disaster Legal Services.