Filing Insurance Claims After Superstorm Sandy
In the wake of Superstorm Sandy’s destructive swath, survivors struggle to reclaim some of their normal lives. Sandy devastated along the western edge of the Atlantic ocean, bringing with it winds topping 100 mph that spread fires, riding in on high tides to flood beaches, towns, and cities. The damages tallied so far number $10-20 million, including homes, businesses, major transportation systems, and supply lines. Insured damages only account for half, estimated at $5-10 million. After such a catastrophe has occurred, those who are insured and interested in recovering what they can may be puzzled at how best to do that.
How the Claim Process Works
The insurance claim process basically starts with you reporting the incident to your insurer. The insurance company assigns a claim adjuster to your case who will arrange an appointment with you. The claim adjuster examines the insured property and determines the cost of repairs or replacement. Once you have signed the adjuster’s estimate, it is processed with your insurer. Finally, the insurer pays out the value of the damages.
Steps to Filing Insurance Claims
Contact your insurer as soon as possible. Insurance companies have multiple ways of contacting them, including national hotline telephone numbers, mobile apps, websites, email, and local agents. While your initial response may be to gather records and note what to report to the insurance company, you will have plenty of time for that between first contacting them and them actually responding to you. Get the ball rolling first; as the insurers are swamped immediately following a large-scale event such as this, they won’t get to your case immediately.
Examine your property; document as much of the initial damaged state as possible through photographs and videos and notes. You may want to hire a third-party, public adjuster to look over the damage; public adjusters will probably get to your property sooner than the insurance company. Also, the public adjuster’s estimate will be a valuable baseline for what you are due and help keep the insurer’s claim adjuster’s estimate fair. A contractor’s repair estimate will also help to keep the claim adjuster’s assessment fair.
Go over your insurance policy yourself. Knowing exactly what is in there is the best way to arm yourself for emergency procedures. Will your insurance cover hotel, automobile rental, or other living expenses while your house or car is unlivable? Uncertainty about what your insurer will eventual repay can hinder Or should you find accommodations with a friend to save the cost? Don’t let uncertainty about the value of your insurance claim in the future threaten the safety of yourself and your family now.
Refuse your insurer’s evaluation if you are unhappy with it. If you feel that the claim is worth more than what you’ve been offered, ask the claim adjusters to justify their assessment. This will lock them into those prices, and facilitate disputing them. You are entitled to bring your lawyer and any third-party estimates to prove your case.
Some Things to Keep in Mind
Be patient; there is a huge backlog of people on the insurers’ lists. The insurance companies typically deploy “catastrophic claims” teams to determine the extent of damage and track which areas are unsafe to move in, and manage visits by claims adjusters and processors.
Stay safe. Whatever damage occurred to your property can potentially harm you and your family; broken supports may be hidden beneath floors and behind walls. The flood waters carry bacteria and other toxic substances; avoid touching and breathing anything without sufficient protection. Listen for hissing sounds, as they can be signs of a gas leak; avoid striking sparks or lighting any fires. Report any suspicions of gas leaks.
If you are your unsatisfied with the insurance company’s valuation of your losses, you can contest it. insurance’s private adjusters are probably slammed and will take awhile to reach you (it could be as much as three months), plus this combats any cheating they might do against you. the public adjusters will get to you faster, help represent you to the insurance company, and their fees are fairly low.
Save what can be saved, but record the initial damaged state as much as possible, including signs of the water level in the residence or automobile. Cameras and camcorders are helpful for visual records.
Document absolutely everything, retrieving or keeping inventories of everything in the building. Retrieve receipts, bank accounts, and credit transactions to help with proving values and records. Photograph and video every item and area before moving anything. Keep track of dates, times, and names regarding every interaction with your insurance company, adjusters, contractors, and processors.