Now that we are a month past Hurricane Ida’s hitting us, many of you will already be dealing with insurance adjusters and trying to get your claims paid.
In our last installment in this series on Hurricane Ida (read it here), we discussed business interruption insurance claims. Now, we are going to talk about covered damages to personal property, such as your home and its contents, your automobile(s), etc.
Here are a few points to take note of when reviewing damages and considering insurance claims:
- Do you have a valid claim? If you have damages pursuant to Hurricane Ida, and have hurricane coverage as part of your homeowner’s policy, the answer is probably “yes.”
- Is your claim worth filing? Most homeowners’ insurance policies have clauses specifically pertaining to hurricane damages, under which you have a precisely calculated hurricane deductible of (typically) between 2% and 5% of your home’s insured amount. Under a 2% deductible, if your home is insured for $750,000, your hurricane deductible would be $15,000. So, make sure before filing a claim that your monetary damages are greater than your deductible. Otherwise, it may not be worth your while to file a claim at all.
- Additional living expenses (ALE) due to evacuation: include these when adding up your total insurance claim(s). It’s worth noting that both Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon and President Biden have encouraged insurers to treat all Hurricane Ida-precipitated evacuations as mandatory, and reimburse their insureds’ evacuation-related expenses. Some insurance companies are paying such claims, while others are resistant. In Louisiana, we had a mix of voluntary and mandatory evacuations; it may be important to know which type of evacuation applied to your home’s location, depending on your insurer. See our post on ALE coverage here.
- Can your insurance agent help? The answer is “maybe.” Your agent has an existing relationship with your carrier, which can sometimes be helpful. However, remember that the claims process will mostly take place between you and your carrier, not your agent. If the carrier is reluctant to pay your claim in full, then your agent might prove useful to you.
- Document all property damage with photographs and/or video, and a written chronicle outlining the time-line of your damages.
- Your insurance adjuster: make sure you get your adjuster’s full name, telephone number, and email address. The adjuster will walk through your property to assess the damage – go with him/her and point out any damage they may miss.
- Should you obtain your own estimates from contractors? Your adjuster will provide you with an estimate of what your insurer will pay. At present, it appears that adjusters are encouraging Hurricane Ida’s victims to get estimates up-front to submit. Whether this would be beneficial to you is a highly individuated determination. But it might be better to get estimates than to wait and go with whatever the adjuster provides. Review any and all estimates carefully – especially those from adjusters.
- Document all repairs, again with photos, video, and a written time-line. Keep all receipts! An insurer may tell you that, if you can’t document your payment, for their purposes the repair didn’t happen. Hopefully you didn’t wait to tarp damaged roofs and board up broken windows. Temporary, stop-gap repairs to prevent further damage should be covered.
- Additional damages: should you find more damage to your home than initially documented and/or claimed (such as a later discovery of mold damage), you can file additional claims. Many homeowners’ policies allow supplemental claims to be filed for up to two years – and your policy should cover any and all repairs needed to restore your home to its pre-hurricane condition.
- What if my payment isn’t enough? If your insurer sends a payment you think is less than it should be, you can still cash the check without prejudicing your rights under your homeowner’s policy. Start your repairs, and request additional funds as needed, supporting your request(s) with estimates/receipts and documentation.
- Flood damage: If you have flood insurance (as most of us do), and your home flooded, that’s a claim under a separate policy, as homeowners’ insurance does not cover flooding.
Again, I recommend strongly that you consult with us before making any tax or financial decisions in Ida’s wake. My direct line is 504-586-3051, and my cell is 504-442-3050.
Getting the right decisions implemented effectively is far better than getting something done immediately, which may in hindsight prove to have been less than an optimal decision.
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Until next time –