Guide to Hurricane Insurance Claims

If your home was recently damaged in a hurricane, read our guide to hurricane insurance claims below to guarantee you get the most out of your settlement. It is important to contact your insurance company as soon as possible after a storm to start the claims process. Be sure to keep a good record of what you spend on repairs and anything related to the hurricane insurance claim so you can be fairly compensated.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Nov 22, 2020

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The climate is changing, and severe weather disruptions are almost certainly to be expected in the coming years. Super storms like Sandy are forecast to become more common, cause more damage, and affect areas which were rarely affected before the turn of the century. Even if you were not affected by Sandy as it rolled through, knowing how to react to a hurricane or other major storm may be essential to being able to settle claims a little farther down the road.

Identify Your Insurance Needs

What type of insurance are you filing a claim against? If your home or apartment is damaged, your home insurance is the primary. If your car is damaged, then use your auto policy, or file a claim against both policies if both are damaged. It is entirely possible, especially after a major storm, for you to file claims with more than one insurance company. Identify which policies are going to be used and keep them handy in case you need to refer to the policy later.

Prevent Additional Loss

The first priority is to limit the amount of damage as much as possible. If a window was broken, cover it with plastic or plywood. If the roof was damaged, cover it with a tarp. The idea is not to cover up the damage that has already happened, but to prevent what has already happened from escalating. For example, covering the window opening will prevent water from ruining your carpet.

Assess the Damage

Once you have performed any repairs necessary to contain the damage, it is time to assess how bad the damage actually is. Your insurance company will either send out an adjuster or instruct you to get written estimates. It is a good idea to get multiple estimates, and make sure that you are being quoted a price for full repairs.

Know What is Covered

It is vital that you know what is and is not covered by your policy, particularly with home insurance but the same holds true for any type of claim. If you don’t have flood insurance and a stream overflows onto your property and into your home, you won’t be able to file a claim for water damage. Your individual insurance policies will detail exactly what is covered, and for what amount. Most standard policies include coverage for wind, lightning, and water damage, but they only pay for full replacement if that is the way the policy is written.

Loss of Use

If you are unable to use your home, condo or apartment because of a covered event like hurricane Sandy, be sure to save the receipts. Your corresponding home insurance, whether it is homeowners, renters, or condo insurance, provides for costs related to loss of use. It doesn’t have to be the entire home you are unable to use, either, because you are also eligible for loss of use coverage if you are unable to use a portion, such as the kitchen, washroom, or a combination caused by something like having no water in the home. The key is to document and save your receipts.

Document Costs

Anything you spend in relation to the claim needs to be documented. This goes for the materials used to make emergency repairs, meals you have to purchase because you cannot cook them at home, a motel room, or even the transportation to accomplish those other things. The more accurately you are able to document costs and their relation to the claim, the easier it will be for the insurance company to compensate you for your expenses.

Coverage Gaps and Limitations

Understand your policy fully before disaster strikes. Otherwise, you may think you are covered for something that is excluded. For example, your home insurance covers water damage, but some policies only cover water damage that is caused by heavy winds, while others will cover water damage caused by broken pipes or other damages. It is important that you know what your policy protects you against before you need it, and to have a working knowledge of the value limitations placed on each type of claim.

After the Claim is Filed

Keep in mind that a big storm like Sandy causes problems for a lot of people, and that is going to slow down the process of settling claims. Where an auto insurance claim might take 7 to 10 days under normal conditions, the same claim might require 14 days or even more after a major storm because there are so many claims being handled. Be patient and stay in contact with the insurance company. If they require additional information, provide it as quickly as possible.

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