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Protecting Your Rights as an Insured Homeowner: A Step-By-Step Guide

Fri Feb 7th, 2020 on     Homeowners Insurance,    

If your home has been damaged in a storm, there are several important steps you need to take to protect your rights against your insurance company. This step-by-step guide will help you avoid mistakes that could jeopardize your homeowner’s insurance or flood insurance claim.

1. Make Sure You and Your Loved Ones are Safe.

First and foremost, safety should be your top priority. No amount of hassle with your insurance company is worth putting your (or anyone else’s) life at risk. Comply with any mandatory evacuation orders, follow the instructions of emergency personnel and first responders, and make sure you are safely out of harm’s way before you start thinking about your insurance claim.

2. Contact Your Insurance Company.

Once it is safe to do so, you should contact your insurance company and file your claim. If the storm caused widespread damage, you can expect delays; and, the sooner you get started, the sooner you can expect a resolution. Make sure you have your policy number and policy documents handy (most major insurance companies have apps that allow you to access your policy information on your phone).

3. Cautiously Inspect Your Home.

Once it is safe to do so, you should try to inspect your home. Be careful while doing so, and keep a safe distance from potential hazards such as electrical wires, gas lines and damaged building materials overhead. Take photos with your phone (try to be as comprehensive as possible), and follow up with your insurer if any emergency repairs appear to be necessary.

4. Find Out if Your Policy Covers Alternate Housing Expenses.

If your home is not habitable, find out if your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover the costs of moving your family into a hotel. Most policies include at least some coverage for alternate housing expenses; and, if you will be displaced for an extended period (weeks or months), you will need to look into your options for long-term temporary housing as well.

5. Inventory Your Home and Personal Property Damage.

Next, prepare a written inventory of the items damaged and lost in the storm. You can use the photos you took for reference, but also be sure to note items that are lost completely. Take your time, be as thorough as possible, and include as many details as you can (including brand, model, date purchased and purchase price).

6. Start the Rebuilding Process.

While you may be able to make some repairs on your own (and in certain circumstances you may need to try to mitigate ongoing damage), before doing so, you want to make sure that anything you do will not negatively affect your insurance claim. A public adjuster can help, and a competent legal professional can advise you on your rights so you can make informed decisions as you start the rebuilding process.

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