If you need to file an insurance claim, or have already filed one, due to damage sustained from Hurricane Harvey, here are some tips for helping the process run smoothly. Linda Sweet, a recently retired claims supervisor and claims triage manager of 21 years, recommends the following:
• Start a fresh notebook or file folder for your Harvey claims. Keep all receipts, estimates and other documents here so you will have easy access to everything. Write down the date and time you make any calls and the name of the person you speak with. Write your claim number at the top of the first page, as you will need this number each time you call in.
• Sign up for text messages from your insurance company. Most companies will alert you via text when they begin work on your claim, when documents are ready, and when payments have been sent. These alerts can prompt you to log in to the insurance company’s website to complete steps online to keep the process moving, instead of waiting for items in the mail.
• If you have flooding and you have a flood insurance policy, be sure to reference this policy when you call. If you do not have flood insurance and the damage to your home was caused by rising flood waters from outside your house, then you will likely not have any coverage under a standard home insurance policy. However, most wind damage and roof damage or leaks should be covered, so any damage to the interior of your home from these events should be reimbursable. This also applies if there was damage from a tornado or any damage caused by broken tree limbs or other debris. Either way, you should contact your insurance company and have an appraiser come out to assess the damage.
• Any damage to your vehicles should be covered by your auto insurance policy, including if your vehicle was flooded. Check your policy, though, as some companies have begun to drop this coverage in effort to have competitive premium pricing. If you had personal items inside your vehicle that were destroyed, these items would be covered by your homeowners insurance.
• Most home insurance policies have limited coverage for landscaping including trees and shrubs. This coverage might be limited if the damage was caused by flooding, as opposed to wind, but it is also worth checking out.
• Take lots and lots of photos of the damage. Search for old photos of your home to get some “before” pictures and then document the “after” to include prior to tearing out drywall and removing appliances. You can even photograph the piles of debris you’ve removed from your home. Save these photos in at least two locations (computer hard drive and flash drive, for example).
• Keep in touch with your insurance agent and especially your claims adjuster on a regular basis. Understand that they are likely extremely busy due to the large number of people affected by this storm, but maintaining contact will help things move along for you.
• Keep receipts for lodging, meals, and any other extraordinary expenses you have incurred that are a result of you not being able to live in your home and submit these to your insurance company.