Navigating Insurance Claims After Hurricane Irma

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ccording to the Association Of British Insurers, claims that need to be covered by UK based underwriters from Hurricane Irma could be as much as £10 to £20 billion. It is also estimated that only 12 percent of homeowners affected have adequate flood damage and storm damage insurance. Even if others are comprehensively insured policyholders affected by Hurricane Irma aren’t in for an easy recovery. Most will need the assistance of a Loss Assessor or Public Loss Adjuster as they are known in the US.

The Met Office described Irma as the most powerful hurricane ever recorded to hit the Caribbean & America . It has absolutely obliterated places such as Bermuda and Barbados. Turks & Caicos has suffered unprecedented catastrophic damage. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Centre warned that Irma is expected to continue its destructive path and slinging down rain with advisories in effect for flooding and flash flood emergencies to put it as the most destructive natural phenomenon that Insurers are likely to face ever.

Insured losses from Irma could be as much as $200 billion, putting it at the top of the list for costliest hurricanes according to investment bank JPMorgan.

For most, handling the insurance aspects probably isn’t top priority — nor should it be.

“The issue right now is safety — getting people out, evacuating,” said Loretta Worters, a vice president for the Insurance Information Institute.

Notify Insurers

Remember to act fast: Insurers often handle claims on a first-come, first-served basis. Insurance Loss adjusters can’t get in until the flood waters have receded, but it helps to pre-emptively reach out and let your agents know your home and vehicle have sustained storm damage. That helps insurers know both where to go to look for damage, and where to find you in the coming days and weeks to more quickly provide assistance. Have things like your Insurance policy number and claim line contacts to hand.

Don’t assume you are covered by your policy – even if you don’t have flood insurance (only about 12 percent of homeowners do), call your home insurer, Homeowners policies in suspected hurricane areas specifically exclude damage related to flooding, but water and wind damage are separate issues. (For example, you could be covered for water damage resulting from wind damage to the roof, or a flying tree branch that broke a window

 If you are currently traveling should call your travel insurance provider. The “trip interruption” section should kick in for policyholders who need to cut short their travels due to the hurricane damaging property. You  might even be covered to return home including the cost of flights and hotel expenses including other expenses incurred.

Make a call log documenting every telephone call with your insurer and back them up with emails, including who you spoke to, when, what was said and what was promised. An Insurance Loss Assessor will need this later should they have any difficulty with your claim, or need to file a complaint.

Transparency is key, you need to be able to remember exactly what happened. Keep your claim reference to hand for when you contact your insurers – this assists insurer’s to quickly find the most up-to-date info on your claim. If you need alternative accommodation, your policy may include “subsistence allowances” which is basically reimbursement for out of pocket expenses such as eating out and washing elsewhere. Remember to also demand a receipt from all contractors to reclaim the bill for expenses like emergency repairs, temporary shoring up and utilities such as power for drying equipment.

People who don’t have insurance or are underinsured aren’t without direction, charitable and government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency offer grants or low-interest loans to help cover expenses such as temporary housing, emergency home repairs and building damage or losses.

The most important thing is to act like you’re not insured. Storm damage can be devastating and even if you are insured you must survive and make do with the tools at your disposal. No insurance company is ever going to publicly chastise you for making decisions that mitigate damage or protects your property and belongings. At the end of the day you have a legal and moral responsibility to prevent the loss from increasing just as you would if you had no Insurance in the first place.