What to do after a storm

Published On: Feb 13 2012 01:13:50 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 13 2012 01:28:52 PM EST

After the storm, besides making temporary repairs, there are several steps you should take that will aid in the filing of an insurance claim.

Make temporary repairs

Call your insurance agent or insurance company

Save receipts for additional living expenses.

Preparing for the adjuster's visit

The claims process may begin in one of two ways.

  1. Your insurance company may send you a claim form, known as a "proof of loss form," to complete.
  2. An adjuster may visit your home before you're asked to fill out any forms. (An adjuster is a person professionally trained to assess the damage.) Usually, the more information you have about your damaged home and belongings the faster your claim can be settled.

Personal Belongings:

  1. Make lists of the damaged items. Include the brand names and model numbers of appliances and electronic equipment. If possible, take photographs of the damage. Don't forget to list items such as clothing, sports equipment, tools, china, linens, outside furniture, holiday decorations and hobby materials.
  2. Use your home inventory or put together a set of records - old receipts, bills and photographs - to help establish the price and age of everything that needs to be replaced or repaired.
  3. If your property was destroyed or you no longer have any records, you will have to work from memory. Try to picture the contents of every room and then write a description of what was there. Try also to remember where and when you bought each piece and about how much you paid.
  4. Don't throw out damaged furniture and other expensive items because the adjuster will want to see them.

Structure of Your Home:

  1. Identify the structural damage to your home and other buildings on your premises, like a garage, toolshed or in-ground swimming pool.
  2. Make a list of everything you would like to show the adjuster when he or she arrives. This should include cracks in the walls, damage to the floor or ceiling and missing roof tiles. If structural damage is likely even though you can't see any signs of it, discuss this with your adjuster. In some cases, the adjuster may recommend hiring a licensed engineer or architect to inspect the property.
  3. Have the electrical system checked. Most insurance companies pay for such inspections.
  4. Get written bids from reliable, licensed contractors on the repair work. The bids should include details of the materials to be used and prices on a line-by-line basis.

Public Adjusters:

  1. Your insurance company provides an adjuster at no charge to you. You also may be contacted by adjusters who have no relationship with your insurance company and charge a fee for their services. These are known as public adjusters. You may use a public adjuster to help you in settling your claim.
  2. Public adjusters may charge you as much as 15 percent of the total value of your settlement for his or her services. The fee isn't covered by your insurance policy. Sometimes after a disaster, the percentage that public adjusters may charge is set by the insurance department.
  3. If you decide to use a public adjuster, first check his or her qualifications by calling your state insurance department. Ask your agent, a lawyer or friends and associates for the name of a professional adjuster they can recommend. Avoid individuals who go from door to door after a major disaster unless you are sure they are qualified.