When a hurricane hits, things can get really chaotic and confusing. It’s important to make sure that you’ve prepared in every way possible, ahead of time. But if you’re here because a hurricane has already hit and you’re not sure what to do, we are here to help! You probably have a lot of questions, like: “Do I call my insurance company right now?” or “How do I know if all of this was covered?” or “There’s a huge leak in my roof, do I cover it up to prevent more damage?” or maybe even “My property is utterly destroyed, how do I get my life back?”. Remain as calm as possible. The first thing is always safety. Make sure that you and your family are in a safe place before you even consider worrying about damages and insurance. After that, you can move forward with this list:
1.) Call a highly reputable Public Adjuster immediately.
Make sure that the Public Adjuster you choose has excellent reviews online and is close enough to be effective on your claim. If you take this step first, most other steps will be taken care of by your Public Adjuster, who will guide you through the process and tell you exactly what else to do, step by step. He/She will contact your insurance company, retrieve a copy of your policy (if it’s been destroyed in the catastrophe), sort out the damages, take pictures, file and negotiate your claim, help you find the right contractor, and a multitude of other things that you probably don’t know how to do, unless you’re a disaster relief specialist or Insurance professional yourself. A Public Adjuster is not your typical Insurance Adjuster, they work for you (the public) and not the Insurance Company, but they have the same amount of authority, if not more. You do not want to go into this claim without professional help. Noble is on standby waiting for your call, after a catastrophe happens (850)249-6972. Learn more about Public Adjusters by clicking here Or contact us here to get your claim started.
2.) Mitigate the Damages.
This simply means stopping further damage from occurring, if possible. For instance, if the wind blows shingles off of your roof and creates a leak that is allowing rain water to come into the house, you (or your contractor) can cover the damaged area with a tarp that you have on hand, but you’ll need to snap a couple of good photos of the area before you cover it. Don’t do any major or permanent repairs to your property. Starting the repairs will take away your evidence of the damage. Even if you have photographs, the insurance company will use any reason they can find to deny your claim, and the last thing you want is to make repairs and have them refuse to reimburse you. Mitigating the damages shows that you are making an effort to stop further damage, in compliance with your policy, which removes the excuse your insurance company would otherwise use to deny paying portions of your claim.
3.) Save Damaged Property and Receipts.
If you purchase items (like a tarp) to mitigate the damages, keep your receipts for reimbursement. Also make sure to get receipts from hotels or rental company’s if you’ve been displaced from your home, so that you can claim “additional living expenses” and get that money back.
Never ever ever throw away your damaged property. I realize that that flooded living room couch is beginning to mold and it probably is developing a smell; just move it to the garage or some other place where it can be physically seen by the insurance company’s adjuster. Sometimes there are nice adjusters that show up and are happy with a photograph of that sopping wet, moldy couch, but “better safe than sorry” is the policy when it comes to insurance. Avoid the urge to clean up too much. If the damage is bad, you’ll want to rummage through the devastation to salvage your belongings that are special, understandably, but don’t short change yourself by throwing away ruined items that need to be accounted for when we meet with the insurance company on site or when you’re creating your inventory list… which brings me to the next point.
4.) Make an Inventory List.
Ideally, each property owner would have an inventory list and perhaps photos and video footage already made and saved within their email/cloud storage or with an Inventory Specialist; this is on the How to Prepare for a Hurricane from an Insurance Prospective list. But if you weren’t “storm ready”, then you need to get out a pen and paper and go through each room of your property (physically if possible, or in your mind’s eye if the property is totally destroyed) and try your very best to remember everything that you had, or everything that you still have, that is damaged. This includes furniture, light fixtures, window dressings, rugs, clothing, decorations, books, linens, electronics, baby gear, kids toys, and anything that you can think of. Get the entire family involved, several brains are better than one. Save this list or give it to your Public Adjuster so they can be added to a professional estimate.
5.) Begin the Claims Process.
If you called Noble Public Adjusting Group as laid out in #1, then you are essentially finished with your “to do list” with the claims process. We inspect your property, take the necessary photos and data, write your damage estimate, notify the insurance company and file the claim. After that, we do all of the fighting for you, including face to face meetings at the property, lots of emails, and innumerable phone calls to negotiate the highest payout possible for your damages. If you choose not to use a Public Adjuster then brace yourself and hang on tight, you are about to encounter bumpy terrain.
a.) You’ll need to locate and interpret your policy to see what’s covered and what your deductibles are (flood insurance is almost always separate, so you need to find that policy too).
b.) Find a contractor who can help mitigate the damages and provide you with a professional estimate (which cost money). Or write your own damage estimate. (Pssst…. don’t forget to include things like code up-grades and be mindful of state statutes regarding restorations according to the percentage of property damaged, that’s a biggie and could cost you thousands in the future and perhaps fines later on!)
c.) Take photos of all of the damages/damaged property and save them to a cloud based file. (incase “oops” your insurance company “never received” that email with all of the photos you sent)
d.) Call your insurance company and open a claim (prepare to be on hold and deal with an automated system).
e.) Meet with the insurance company’s
super friendly staff adjuster to discuss the damage (be prepared to prove that the damage happened during the storm and not before).
f.) Make notes of every phone call, email, and meeting. Document who you spoke with and the dates, times, and content of your conversation. (Please trust me, you will need it for when you are forced to speak with a supervisor to tell them you’ve left 47 voicemails with their adjuster over the last 4 months and no one will call you back).
g.) Jump through all of the hoops that your insurance company commands (they are ever-changing) and finally accept your inevitable denial or low-ball payout.
h.) Then call the Public Adjuster you should have called to begin with and have them re-open the claim and fight for what you’re owed (but keep in mind that you’ve taken away a lot of their negotiating power by bringing them in on the back-end, which will mean less money than they probably could have gotten you had you called them first).
6.) Receive your insurance pay-out.
This is when it’s okay to give your contractor the go-ahead to restore your property. The rest is dependent on the extent of your damages. You may have to wait several months for your repairs, while living in a rental house, or it may only take a few days of banging hammers to get you back where you belong.
This list is not fully comprehensive. Every insurance claim is different and every family is different. This is the standard process and may not include certain things that are applicable to your claim. The most important thing to do is hire a Public Adjuster as soon as you are out of harms way. If they’re a good P.A., they get things rolling pretty fast and cost way less than an attorney. This will help you to avoid many many mistakes and an enormous amount of hassle that you just don’t need when your life is suddenly hit with a hurricane. We, like many Public Adjusters, work on contingency, so there’s no money up-front and no out of pocket expense. We’re paid a percentage of the claim, so it is beneficial for you and us to get your claim payout as high as possible. Our fee comes out of the claim pay-out checks. The OPPAGA government issued report indicated that people that use a Public Adjuster, instead of filing alone, receive a 747% higher payout. Noble’s payout is actually higher than the average. Check out our facebook page to see actual claim payouts and client reviews. Avoid all the hassle and get more money by using a Public Adjuster. Have a claim? Click here to have Noble get the ball rolling.