Written by Andy Gurczak

August 7, 2021

Natural Disaster Claim: What You Should Know

There are few things in life as devastating as being affected by a natural disaster. Natural disasters, such as wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc., can cause widespread damage to your community. Therefore, knowing how to start the recovery from a natural disaster can make a huge difference in your experience. Specifically, on how quickly you are able to rebuild your life and return to normalcy. Moreover, you probably also want to be able to afford rebuilding or repairing your home when disaster strikes. This is where a natural disaster insurance claim comes into play.

Understanding the scope of your insurance policy is an important step in preparing for natural disasters. For example, standard homeowners insurance policies, do not cover flood damage. Therefore, if you live in an area where hurricanes or floods are common, you are financially unprotected. Talking to your agent to review your homeowners insurance policy is a good idea in order to ensure you are properly covered after a natural disaster. Believe it or not, many homeowners insurance policies have exclusions and you might have to add endorsements. In fact, you might even have to purchase a whole separate policy. For this reason, knowing what your homeowners insurance policy does and does not cover is one of the most important steps when preparing for a natural disaster.

Natural Disaster Claim Different Types of Disasters

Things to Consider Before Filing a Natural Disaster Claim

Before filing natural disaster claim, make sure you and your loved ones are safe

The first thing you need to be sure of after a disaster, is the health and safety of you and your loved ones. For example, if you need to evacuate, stay together if it’s possible. Furthermore, having an emergency kit for every person in your family is essential. As well as knowing where to locate irreplaceable papers and valuables.

Moreover, a battery or solar powered radio is an excellent resource. For instance, it could help you identify local shelters, or medical care so that you know where to go if you need help. And do not forget to make a plan for your pets. If your home isn’t safe for you, then it is likely not safe for them. However, not all shelters accept animals, so make a list beforehand of shelters that do. Similarly to human family members, your pet also needs an emergency kit with pet food and other necessities.

Assess damages and file your natural disaster claim

Once you and your loved ones are able to return to your home, you will need to assess the damages. So take a notebook or cell phone with you to record any damages. With this in mind, take notes, photos and videos of the damaged and undamaged parts of your home.

The type of damage you could find will depend on what kind of natural disaster happened. To illustrate, a hurricane could cause roof damage or debris damage. Meanwhile earthquakes can cause cracks and damage to your walls or foundation.

If you do find damage, you will want to file an insurance claim as quickly as you can. Since after a natural disaster there are likely to be a large number of claims, the sooner you file, the sooner you may be able to start repairs. Submit photos and documentation with your claim. In fact, even if you do not know the extent of the damage, you can still call your insurance company to notify them that your home is likely damaged. Once you do, your insurer will assign a claims adjuster to your file who will then conduct a more thorough examination of the property.

Natural Disaster Claim Hiring a Contractor

Make temporary repairs and find a contractor meanwhile your insurer process your natural disaster claim

After a natural disaster, you may need to make temporary repairs to secure your home or eliminate the possibility of further damage. For example, you might need to tarp up holes in your roof to prevent rain from further damaging your home. Or maybe a door blew off its hinges and it may need boarding up to keep your home safe from thieves.

However, in an event like this you might want to get several quotes for any necessary repairs As well as beware of contractors who suddenly raise their prices while the demand is high.

Moreover, if you are going to be away at a shelter or hotel, remove valuable items from your home and store them away in a safe place. Unoccupied homes can often fall prey to thieves who frequent areas where there has been a natural disaster. Furthermore, valuable items may also be at risk of damage if there is the possibility of flooding during or after the disaster.

Keep track of expenses so that you can later get reimbursement along with your natural disaster claim settlement

Once you have taken care of any emergency repairs, be sure to keep all receipts and invoices from the construction companies who worked on your home. Have a safe place where you can store these until your insurer needs them. With this in mind, also remember to discuss any preventive actions you plan on taking with your insurance adjuster.
You can find out if you have coverage for emergency repairs by talking to your insurance agent, as well as for living expenses while you are not at home.

Natural Disaster Claim Government Assistance

Ask for help if you need it

Government organizations such as FEMA, will often set up local centers in your area after a disaster. As well as non-profits organizations such as the Red Cross. For instance, you may be able to find help with childcare. Or the costs of repair and cleanup and in fact, even mental health care.

Moreover, if your disaster is local and the federal government does not step in, there may still be options for help. For example, you may be able to seek out local groups that are offering support and services after disasters.

Furthermore, other resources that may be helpful include disasterassistance.gov, which will direct you to the closest FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC). In addition, the website of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children could also help in case you are separated from your child during an emergency. Last but not least, FEMA also has a mobile app that you can download when preparing for a disaster. It provides a wealth of real-time disaster information for you to access.

How soon after a natural disaster should I file a natural disaster claim?

As we mentioned before, your first responsibility after a natural disaster is to make sure that you and your loved ones are safe. Once you have done that, then you can begin the claims process so that it will be handled as quickly and efficiently as possible.

How can I lessen the risk of damage to my property from a natural disaster?

There are certain ways you can protect your home from natural disaster damage. At least, to a certain degree. To illustrate, it may be wise to purchase a roof that can withstand high winds in hurricane prone areas. Moreover, in areas prone to fires, you can carefully manage your landscaping to prevent fires from getting close to your home. You could also mitigate your risk of earthquake damage by retrofitting your home. In conclusion, understanding and following the building codes in your area and keeping your home in good condition may be your best defense against natural disasters.

How much insurance do I need to cover a natural disaster claim?

This question may be hard to answer since every case is different. Therefore, talking with a licensed agent is likely the best way to determine the right amount of coverage for your property. However, you may want to consider replacement cost coverage rather than actual cash value coverage, if you live in an area where natural disasters are common. This is because actual cash value coverage does not take depreciation into account and will better help you to rebuild or repair your home after a disaster.

Natural Disaster Claim Insurance Form

Things You Need to Know About Your Natural Disaster Claim

First, timing is everything when filing a natural disaster claim

Although finding time to call your insurance provider can be difficult during a natural disaster, it is extremely important you reach out to them. Because when it comes to filing a claim, speed is essential. During a natural disaster, insurance handles claims on a first-come, first-served basis. You’ll want to reach out to your agent and report damage as soon as you’re safe.

Moreover, ask if there is a catastrophe claim number for your region because insurance companies often dispatch special units to handle large-scale disasters. In addition, it’s also best to have your policy information available to you at all times so you can review pertinent information when necessary.

Second, assessing your home’s damage could take weeks, thus delaying your natural disaster claim settlement

More often than not, police block off certain areas during and after a catastrophe. And floodwaters, downed power lines or mandatory evacuations may cause your adjuster from reaching your home for a while. Therefore, depending on where you live and the severity of the disaster, it could take several days or even weeks before your claim can be evaluated. With this in mind, remember to be patient and realize that repeatedly calling your insurer may not do you any good.

Also, your policy may not estimate replacement costs realistically

Insurance companies do not always calculate rebuilding costs accurately. Moreover, if you renovated your property and didn’t update your policy, you likely won’t receive the coverage necessary to replace everything. Furthermore, recovery expenses tend to increase after a natural disaster due to an influx of homeowners rebuilding at the same time. These increased costs usually aren’t taken into consideration by insurers, thus leaving the policyholder to cover the differences. Hiring a public adjuster can help you maximize your claim and therefore you might be able to cover some of this difference.

And using your insurer’s approved contractor isn’t mandatory to get your natural disaster claim approved

Your insurer generally sends out a list of contractors for the insured to choose from. It’s often wise to work with the professionals they provide. However, you do have the option of shopping around and hiring your own workers. But do keep in mind that after a disaster, fraudulent contractors often prey on uninformed victims to turn a quick profit.

Last but not least, your natural disaster claim money won’t necessarily go to you

Insurance companies issue payments to anyone who has financial interest in your property. Therefore, that means including a spouse, partner, guarantor and mortgage provider. You won’t be able to cash the check without the signature of everyone involved. So if the check comes to you, you’ll have to endorse the check and send it to the other parties in order to get their endorsement. In case it goes to a bank or mortgage company, they become responsible for sending the money to you.

 

 

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