Tips for Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricane season 2010 is upon us.  While we are all spending our time stocking our freezers and buying “D” size batteries, bottled water and generators, many of us are ignoring the single most important element of a hurricane protection plan – insurance.  Most, if not all of you have insurance to protect your homes and commercial properties, but do you really know what coverage you have?  Do you really know how to protect your rights under that policy when a “covered occurrence” takes place?

Tips for Hurricane Preparedness

1. Make sure the “named insured” under the policy matches identically to the true owner(s) of the property.  This may sound obvious, and in the context of residential property insurance it is generally not a problem.  However, in situations where property is held in the name of a corporation or a limited liability company, or when insurance is procured by one party for the benefit of another, it becomes crucial that the named insured is properly identified as the true owner of the property.

2. Document your property and belongings before and after the storm.  Take a number of digital pictures depicting your structure and all of its contents before the storm (don’t forget outdoor fixtures such as air conditioning units).  Take at least two or three photos per room from different angles.  Store these photos on a flash drive and keep it in a weatherproof box along with a copy of your insurance policy.  This will make it easier for you to prove your damages to your adjuster in case the storm is particularly devastating.  After the storm, take handwritten notes documenting the extent of your damage and how the damage to each item occurred.  Take photographs of any damaged property as well.

3. Immediately contact your insurer following a storm and document your communications.  This should be done according to the instructions in your policy.  Usually your first contact will be via telephone.  Make sure to ask what the insurance representative wants you to do and take notes of that conversation including the time and date of your call(s), who you spoke to and details of what was discussed.  When you first speak to the insurance company’s adjuster ask whether a “Proof of Loss” claim form is required.  If it is, then ask the adjuster to immediately send you one.  Fill it out and return it promptly.  Your policy probably contains separate coverage parts for the building, personal property and business interruption (for commercial policies).  Make sure that you fill out a “Proof of Loss” form for each coverage part.  If possible, follow up with a letter that confirms everything you and the representative spoke about.

4. A note about adjusters.  The insurance company’s employee responsible for resolving your claim is called an adjuster.  This person is not your friend.  While it is important to cooperate with the adjuster’s requests for information, documentation and an inspection of the damage (usually more than once), do not let the adjuster take advantage of your situation by forcing you to relinquish your claim for less than you know you are entitled to.

5. A note about deductibles and property protection.  After a hurricane, you will be expected to contribute an amount equal to your deductible towards preserving and protecting your property from further damage and towards making repairs.  This amount of money can be substantial (upwards of 10% of the amount of your coverage) depending upon the deductible you selected when you purchased the policy.  You should have that much money available to contribute.  If you don’t, then you may need to rethink the deductible you selected.  Keep all receipts for labor and materials used to protect or repair your property.

6. “Actual Cash Value” versus “Replacement Cost” coverage. Unless you have purchased “Replacement Cost” coverage, your insurer will only reimburse you for the actual cash value (“ACV”) of your damaged items.  For example, you have a ten year old king size mattress.  That mattress may be worth only $100.00.  However, to buy a new king size mattress might cost you $1,500.00.  If you have ACV coverage, then you get reimbursed $100.00.  If you have Replacement Cost coverage, you get $1,500.00.  Additionally, some policies require you to actually go out and replace the item before the insurer is obligated to pay you the Replacement Cost amount.

Source by Andrew Wyman

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