HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS INFORMATION
brought to you by the Earl Bacon Agency
Before the Storm
Know Your Agent:
Have your agent's name and phone number with you so you can file your claim promptly if your property suffers damage.
Know Your Insurance Company:
Most insurance companies have a toll-free claim reporting line. Know your insurance company's direct claim reporting phone number and file your claim directly with them if you can't reach your agent.
Know Your Policy Information:
Most local agents take pride in knowing their customers by name. However, if it's necessary to file your claim directly with the insurance company, they will need your policy number. As long as you're pulling together policy information, have handy the same information for your automobile insurer and health insurer, just in case. We love our trees here in North Florida and they can fall on cars just as they can on houses.
Know What You Have:
Prepare a home inventory. This doesn't have to be anything fancy. A room-by-room list of furnishings, wall coverings, clothing, and appliances will do. Of course, pictures or video is even better for documenting your loss. Be sure to keep a copy away from your premises - perhaps with your agent or with a friend or relative in a nearby city.
Know What's Covered:
It's not a bad idea to review your policy with your agent at least every couple of years. Does your policy provide Replacement Cost coverage? Do you have any special items (jewelry, guns, cash, coins, antiques, collectibles) that may have limitations of coverage in the homeowners policy? If your home is uninhabitable after a storm, does your policy provide coverage if you must temporarily live elsewhere?
Know Your Deductible:
Many of us purchase Homeowners Policies with deductibles of $500 or $1,000. However, in Florida, most policies carry special deductibles for Hurricane damage. Those deductibles are expressed in terms of a percentage of the dwelling value, usually ranging from 2% to as high as 10%. That means your deductible for a Hurricane could be much higher than the standard amount. A home Insured for $250,000 that carries a 2% Wind deductible means you'll have $5,000 out-of-pocket before the insurance company is required to pay any portion of the claim.
Know What's NOT Covered:
Homeowners policies generally do not cover damage caused by Flood or "rising" water. That usually requires a separate Flood Insurance policy. Your home need not be located on the banks of a river or on the Gulf shore to be subject to flood damage. Even a clogged storm drain that overflows can be considered a "flood" if it impacts more than one property owner.
Know Who is Covered:
A recent study revealed that fewer than 50% of American households are now headed by a married couple. This can cause problems with insurance claims as most policies cover the named insured and "resident relatives." That means if you share a home with your sister or if your Mother-in-Law just moved in. you're probably covered. But, if you have unrelated people (roommate, girlfriend, boyfriend) living with you, they may need their own policy to protect their property and personal liability.
After the Storm
File Your Claim Promptly:
Call your claim into your agent's office or into your insurance company's direct claim reporting phone line as soon as you know you have damage. Make sure you have your policy number and other relevant information with you when you call.
Make Temporary Repairs:
Not only is this common sense, but most insurance policies contain contract language that requires you to prevent further damage to your home or furnishings.
Document, Document, Document!
Make a list of your damaged property. Take pictures, if possible. Keep copies of all receipts. You will need them to get reimbursed from your insurance company. It's also advisable to keep a diary of all conversations with your agent, adjuster, or insurance company representative. If you don't think you're being treated fairly contact the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation or consider hiring your own Public Adjuster.
Work only with Reputable Contractors:
Make sure any contractor you use is licensed to work in the State of Florida. Get a Certificate of insurance from the contractor and make sure he carries both Commercial General Liability and Workers’ Compensation. Don't be a victim twice!
When there is a lot of damage, many of our neighbors will be seeking help. Although insurance companies add on extra staff during these times, it may take a while to get to everyone. Keep your cool as best you can and follow up as necessary.