How Do I Make An Insurance Claim After Wildfires, Floods, Hurricanes or Other Natural Disasters?

Disasters have been in the news a lot in the last 12 months, between west coast wildfires, Texas floods and Florida hurricanes.  Disasters raise a number of insurance issues for policyholders, especially when they’re busy digging out of the wreck already.  Disasters also strain overworked insurance company personnel, who might make hasty guesses about your loss that wind up being inaccurate. Here are some steps you might consider taking if that happens (after making sure everyone is safe of course):

  • Promptly Notify Your Insurer – Your first step if you think you might have a claim is to tell your insurer. Delayed claim notice is a basis to deny an otherwise valid claim.  It’s also wise to make sure the insurer has your updated contact information.
  • Read Your Policy – Your insurance policy is an important starting point. It spells out your rights and the company’s obligations.  It contains important time limits and similar rules you need to follow in order to make a valid insurance claim.  It also specifies your coverage in detail; don’t assume the overworked adjuster processing thousands of similar claims will identify all coverage that might benefit you. It may require you consult with the company before undertaking any repairs, or have similar rules you need to follow.
  • Protect Yourself From Further Loss – Protecting yourself and your property from further damage is common sense. It’s also explicitly required by many insurance policies.  If you sustain further loss because you failed to take reasonable preventative measures, your insurer may have a valid basis to refuse to cover the additional loss you could have avoided.  But keep in mind that your policy may provide that non-emergency repairs require you to consult with the company before undertaking the work.
  • Make a Paper Trail – Take notes when you speak to the adjuster or contractors, and save your receipts for all disaster-related expenses such as repairs or hotel bills. Make sure you get important statements from the insurer, like requests for information or coverage statements, in writing. Keep an inventory detailing the full scope of the loss.
  • Get Repair Quotes – Get an estimate from the contractor or another appropriate person of the cost to repair the damage. This will give you a reasonable basis to double-check your insurer’s estimate.
  • Be Present During the Inspection – Your adjuster will likely inspect your property to ascertain the scope of the damage. It’s often wise to attend the inspection in person.  That way, you can point out the full extent of the damage and make sure the adjuster doesn’t miss anything.
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Light snow in the Olympics.

3 thoughts on “How Do I Make An Insurance Claim After Wildfires, Floods, Hurricanes or Other Natural Disasters?

  1. Now we are seeing a trend in the insurance industry whereby “weather conditions” which contribute to or combines with any cause of loss caused by “conduct, act, failure to act” by governmental body, coverage will be excluded.

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    1. That’s unfortunate. Often whether claim denials on that basis are legitimate depends on the details of the policy. It can also depend on state insurance law; for instance, in Washington we have the “efficient proximate cause rule” which, under the right circumstances, can prevent the insurer from relying on exclusions for an otherwise covered loss.

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      1. Yes, it will require challenges, however, private industry has a serious leg up even within the judiciary and how laws are interpreted more in favor of corporations over individuals.

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