Tips for Hail and Storm Damage
Recently the Twin Cities were hit with another big storm which caused damage to properties around the metro. If you are a property owner on the receiving end of these or any other storms, here are some initial tips as to what you should do:
1. Contact your insurance company: If it appears your home or property has been damaged, call your insurance company to report the issue. This is your “claim.” Ask your insurance company where you can send written notice of the claim. You can send the claim by mail, fax or email and make sure you keep a copy of the notice you send. The “notice” can simply be a description of the incident and what was damaged. If the insurance company tells you that written notice is not necessary, do it anyway. Also, make sure to ask what the claim number is and write it down.
2. Prevent further damage: As the insured, you usually have a duty to “mitigate” the damage to your property after a loss. In other words, you are responsible for making sure that any further damage that is preventable is prevented. The classic example is to board up any broken windows so that the interior of your home doesn’t suffer further damage from rain or wind. Of course, some damage may be so severe that a temporary fix would be too difficult or unrealistic to perform. If you have any question regarding what damage needs to be mitigated you may contact our firm by clicking here.
3. Document the damage: This is where smart phones are a godsend. Take photos and/or video of the damage. If there is damage to the contents of your home or building, document and inventory those as well. Do not discard any damaged items until they have been inspected by the insurance company’s adjustor and you have been informed in writing that the items may be discarded. For larger and more valuable items, such as electronics, do your best to document the make and model number of the item.
Also document where the items are located. This is important since it could dictate whether or not your insurance company agrees to cover the loss of those contents. Here’s a real life example: A house suffered serious storm damage which included water flooding the basement, as well as a window in an upstairs closet being blown out which ruined all of the homeowner’s dress clothes. The damage to the basement was considered “flood damage” and was not covered. Thereafter an adjustor for the insurance company came to the property and noticed a box of old clothes in the basement affected by the water and made a note of it. The homeowner didn’t care about the box of old junk in the basement, but the items upstairs had value and were submitted as part of the claim. Unfortunately, the insurance company denied coverage of the clothes because it claimed the they came from the box in the basement.
4. Ask for a copy of your insurance policy: It is important to read your policy to see what is and isn’t covered, and to know what your policy limits are. Make sure to read the entire policy. Many policies have amendments and addendums located at the end of the document which dictate coverage, time requirements and other important aspects of the policy.
With regard to policy limits, know what your policy limits are for all aspects of the claim. Many policies include coverage for emergency repairs and additional living expenses (ALE). It is important to know how much money you are entitled to cover the cost to live elsewhere while your home is being repaired. Failure to ascertain what these limits are could result in substantial out-of-pocket losses down the road.
Once you obtain a copy of your policy you may find it incredibly confusing. That’s because it is. If you would like assistance in interpreting the policy you may contact our firm to see if we can help.
5. Know that you are on the clock: Read the policy to determine what the various time limits are. There are two important time limits to consider. One is the amount of time available to bring a lawsuit against the insurance company. This is called the “statute of limitations.” It is fitting that the acronym for “statute of limitations is “SOL” considering you are completely out of luck if you attempt to initiate a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired.
The other important time limit is the amount of time in which repairs must be made to the property. Under “replacement cost” polices the insurance company will initially pay the actual cash value (ACV) of the loss, but will not pay the replacement cost value (RCV) until all repairs have been made (in a nut shell, ACV equals RCV minus depreciation). In many cases there is a time limit to make the repairs (typically 180 days). As such, you will need to be aware of the time limit to make sure you recover the full replacement cost.
Finally, the best thing to do is to contact a policyholder advocate to help with your claim. We handle property insurance issues all day, every day and are happy to see if we can help you with the claims process and maximize your recovery. Please feel free to contact our firm to see if we can help.