People in central Jersey are starting to return to normal after being shut down for almost a week by Hurricane Sandy, but there are many homewoners and business owners who may need guidance in filing insurance claims as a result of the storm’s destruction.
“As the recovery process starts, we want to do our part to help it go as smoothly as possible,” syas Anthony Bavaro, president of the trade organization Professional Insurance Agents of New Jersey. Bavaro says that some suggestions for those those who will need to file claims include:
After filing your claim, try to prevent further damage — it may not be covered. Also, do not make any permanent repairs, or dispose of any damaged property before an adjuster has been able to see the damage. Save receipts for your temporary repairs.
Keep Good Records. Be sure to write down the date, time, and who you speak to for each conversation in the claims process and with contractors. Write down the claim number.
If your home is uninhabitable, collect the receipts for your temporary housing, as well as extraordinary living expenses that you incur as a result of the storm.
Those who are insured have a responsibility to protect against further damage, so keep receipts and time logs, even your own time.
Be Patient. In times of disasters and widespread losses, adjusters can be delayed in visiting your site, or in filing your claim. Generally, those with the heaviest losses take priority. Your insurance agent often can check on the status of the process, and your carrier will issue you a claims draft after it has been settled.
Be ready for the claims adjuster. Secure an estimate for repairs — more than one if possible. Take pictures and document all damaged items.
Get E-mail addresses for adjusters. They may not have time to return calls but may be able to answer E-mails all night.
What’s Covered? Most insurance companies do not cover food spoilage resulting from a power failure, but some do provide limited coverage. Check your policy with your agent. When recovering, every little bit counts.
Damage to trees and landscaping usually isn’t covered under homeowners policies, but damage to part of your property caused by a felled tree, such as the house or a fence, usually is covered.
Be aware of whether your policy stipulates the settlement’s value is based on “actual cash value” or “replacement cost.” Actual cash value is determined by the replacement cost at today’s prices and subtracting a reasonable amount for depreciation. Some policies provide coverage on a “guaranteed replacement cost” basis, which will pay whatever it costs to repair or rebuild the home, regardless of policy limits.
Unplug It. When electricity is restored, power surges can damage appliances, computers, and entertainment equipment. If you can unplug your expensive items while the power is still out, do so. Homeowners policies cover power-surge damage to some items, but not all.
Beware of fraud. Where there is money there will be thieves. All estimates and proposals should be written down, and don’t feel compelled to work with the first contractor who shows up. Ask for certificate of insurance, and check for licenses to do work.
“This is a trying time for many people across New Jersey,” says Bavaro. “Independent agents are members of the community, and their biggest concern is helping their neighbors, families and friends rebuild.”