1. Make temporary repairs. Make temporary repairs to prevent further weather related damage. Cover holes in
the roof, walls, doors and windows with plastic or boards. Be careful not to
risk your own safety in making the repairs.
Save receipts for any material you buy. Your insurance company will reimburse
you for the cost.
Beware of building contractors that encourage you to spend a lot of money on
temporary repairs. Remember that payments for temporary repairs are part of the
total settlement. If you pay a contractor a large sum for a temporary repair
job, you may not have enough money for permanent repairs.
Don't make extensive permanent repairs until after the claims adjuster has been
to your home and assessed the damage.
Avoid using electrical appliances, including stereos and television sets, that
have been exposed to water unless they've been checked by a technician.
2. Call your insurance agent or insurance
company. Report the damage to your insurance agent or insurance company representative.
Ask questions such as: Am I covered? Does my claim exceed my deductible? (Your
deductible is the amount of loss you agree to pay yourself when you buy a
policy.) How long will it take to process my claim? Will I need to obtain
estimates for repairs to structural damage?
3. Save receipts for additional living expenses. Most homeowners policies cover additional living expenses such as food and
housing costs, telephone or utility installation costs in a temporary residence,
extra transportation costs to and from work or school, relocation and storage
expenses and furniture rental for a temporary residence. Your insurance company
will usually advance you money for these expenses. The payments will be part of
the final claim settlement. Let your insurance company know where you can be
reached so that the claims adjuster can give you a check.
The maximum amount available to pay for such expenses is generally equal to 20
percent of the insurance on your home. So on a home insured for $100,000, up to
$20,000 would be available. This amount is in addition to the $100,000 to pay
for repairs or to rebuild your home. Some insurance companies pay more than 20
percent. Others limit additional living expenses to the amount actually spent
during a certain period of time, such as 12 months, instead of a maximum
percentage of the policy limit.
4. Preparing for the adjuster's visit. The claims process may begin in one of two ways.
Your insurance company may send you a claim form, known as a "proof of loss
form," to complete.
An adjuster may visit your home first, before you're asked to fill out any
forms. (An adjuster is a person professionally trained to assess the damage.)
Usually, the more information you have about your damaged home and belongings
the faster your claim can be settled.
Major disasters make enormous demands on insurance company personnel. Your
adjuster generally will come prepared to do a thorough and complete study of the
damage to your home. However, the large number of claims may place time
restrictions on adjusters forcing them to "scope the loss." If your adjuster
doesn't make a complete evaluation of the loss on the first visit, try to set up
an appointment for a second visit.
Be sure to keep copies of lists and other documents you submit to your insurance
company. Also keep copies of whatever paperwork your insurance company gives
Make lists of the damaged items. Include the brand names and model numbers of
appliances and electronic equipment. If possible, take photographs of the
damage. Don't forget to list items such as clothing, sports equipment, tools,
china, linens, outside furniture, holiday decorations and hobby materials.
Use your home inventory or put together a set of records - old receipts, bills
and photographs - to help establish the price and age of everything that needs
to be replaced or repaired.
If your property was destroyed or you no longer have any records, you will have
to work from memory. Try to picture the contents of every room and then write a
description of what was there. Try also to remember where and when you bought
each piece and about how much you paid.
Don't throw out damaged furniture and other expensive items because the adjuster
will want to see them.
Structure of Your Home
Identify the structural damage to your home and other buildings on your
premises, like a garage, tool shed or in-ground swimming pool.
Make a list of everything you would like to show the adjuster when he or she
arrives. This should include cracks in the walls, damage to the floor or ceiling
and missing roof tiles. If structural damage is likely even though you can't see
any signs of it, discuss this with your adjuster. In some cases, the adjuster
may recommend hiring a licensed engineer or architect to inspect the property.
Have the electrical system checked. Most insurance companies pay for such
Get written bids from reliable, licensed contractors on the repair work. The
bids should include details of the materials to be used and prices on a
Your insurance company provides an adjuster at no charge to you. You also may be
contacted by adjusters who have no relationship with your insurance company and
charge a fee for their services. These are known as public adjusters. You may
use a public adjuster to help you in settling your claim.
Public adjusters may charge you as much as 15 percent of the total value of your
settlement for his or her services. The fee isn't covered by your insurance
policy. Sometimes after a disaster, the percentage that public adjusters may
charge is set by the insurance department.
If you decide to use a public adjuster, first check his or her qualifications by
calling your state insurance department. Ask your agent, a lawyer or friends and
associates for the name of a professional adjuster they can recommend. Avoid
individuals who go from door to door after a major disaster unless you are sure
they are qualified.
HOW TO DETERMINE THE
The settlement amount depends on which type of policy you have. Having
inadequate insurance can affect the settlement amount.
1. The Difference between Replacement Cost and Actual Cash Value
Replacement cost is the dollar amount needed to replace a damaged item with one
of similar kind and quality without deducting for depreciation - the decrease in
value due to age, wear and tear and other factors. An actual cash value policy
pays the amount needed to replace the item minus depreciation.
Suppose, for example, a tree fell through the roof onto your eight-year-old
washing machine. If you had a replacement cost policy for the contents of your
home, the insurance company would pay to replace the old machine with a new one.
If you had an actual cash value policy, the company would pay only a percentage
of the cost of a new washing machine because a machine that has been used for
eight years would be worth less than its original cost. Suppose, also, that the
tree damaged your 15-year-old roof so badly that it had to be completely
replaced. If you had a replacement cost policy, the insurance company would pay
the full cost of installing a new roof. If you had an actual cash value policy,
it would pay a smaller percentage of the cost of replacing it.
2. Extended and Guaranteed Replacement Cost
Extended Replacement Cost: If your home was damaged beyond repair, a typical
homeowners policy will pay to replace your home up to the limit of the policy.
Where the value of your insurance policy has kept up with increases in local
building costs, a dwelling like the one that was destroyed generally can be
rebuilt for an amount that's within the policy limit. However, some insurance
companies offer a replacement cost policy that will pay a certain percentage
over the limit to rebuild your home - 20 percent or more, depending on the
insurer - so that if building costs go up unexpectedly, you will have extra
funds to cover the bill.
Guaranteed Replacement Cost: Sometimes after a widespread disaster, a large
demand for construction workers and materials drives up prices. A few insurance
companies still offer a guaranteed replacement cost policy that pays whatever it
costs to rebuild your home as it was before the disaster. But neither a
guaranteed or extended replacement cost policy will pay for a house that's
better than the one that was destroyed.