By Cat Liffner | Account Manager
The 2018 hurricane season in Florida is fast approaching, and as most previous years, we are told it’s going to be an active season. It seems that every year, the prediction says that we are going to have more storms than average. Here are some tips on what to do to prepare for any hurricanes that may hit Florida and the surrounding areas this year, and what to do if you have an insurance claim.
Make sure that you keep an inventory of your belongings before the hurricane season in Florida begins. It is going to be hard to remember all of the things that you have in your home after you’ve had a loss, not just because it’s impossible to keep track of, but also because it will be a very emotional event. The easiest way to do this is to videotape your home. Do a walkthrough of your entire home and open cabinets and drawers. Don’t forget your garage or any storage shed that you may have. If you have any valuables such as antiques, jewelry, silverware, firearms and other high-ticket items, make sure that you also have documentation of the value of these items like an appraisal. Once you have documented your belongings, make sure that you keep the documentation at a secondary location or on a cloud-based storage.
Before the hurricane season in Florida begins, you will want to add your insurance agent to your cell phone contacts, as well as the actual carrier’s phone number. Your agent’s office may also have suffered damage and is unable to operate due to power loss. If that happens, they will be unable to access your information and provide you with your policy number, so you want to make sure that you have that written down. I also recommend contacting your agent before any storm is coming to make sure that your policy is active and that you have the coverage that you need. The last thing you need to find out after a loss is that your policy had canceled, and then you are left with no payment from the carrier.
If you are receiving a discount on your homeowner’s policy for shutters or opening protection, your insurance carrier may require that these are installed when a hurricane is coming to be able to make a claim on your policy. Check your policy or call your agent to find out more information about any requirements that your carrier may have in place.
After the Storm
If we are amongst the unlucky this year that will be in the path of a storm, you may find yourself with damage to your home. The first thing to do is to try and remain as calm as possible. You and your family are hopefully safe, and keep in mind that homes can be rebuilt. The second thing is to take inventory of the damages. Take pictures or videos before making any repairs, and don’t discard the items that are damaged. You may be requested to provide proof of loss by the adjuster. Then you will need to make sure that you prevent any further damage to your home or your belongings. These are necessary actions you need to take after a loss, and written specifically in your policy. For example, if your roof is leaking, put up a tarp to protect your home from water or other elements.
Filing a Claim
Contact your insurance carrier or agent as soon as possible to file a claim. Sometimes after a catastrophic loss, your carrier may also set up a claims centers in your town to help you file claims. Remember that there could be many people with losses to their homes, so staying patient during the process is paramount. As we have seen in the past, a bad hurricane season in Florida can devastate a wide array of the population. Please don’t hesitate to contact your agent if you have any questions or concerns about the process.
It will be your responsibility to find and hire a contractor to make any repairs to your home. Your insurance carrier or agent may have preferred vendors, but after a catastrophic loss, it could be a challenge to find someone that is available. You will want to make sure that the person that you consider hiring to do the work is licensed and insured. If the work is not properly done, you will not be able to claim that under your homeowners policy. That type of loss is excluded. You will then have to deal with the contractor directly, whom you may not be able to find again after a couple of years.
Assignment of Benefits
You also should stay away from signing any kind of assignment of benefit. This is a big problem right now and can cause regular claims to be more expensive than they need to be. In simplified terms, if you sign an AOB with a contractor, then you are signing away your rights as an insured. The contractor then in a way becomes the insured since all payments and contacts are then made to them directly. The problem is that some contractors abuse this by claiming there is damage that really wasn’t there, or that it is costing more than it should to repair. And if they do not receive the money that they are asking for, then the insurance carrier can face a lawsuit. Those costs the insurance company, and ultimately all of us if the rates need to be increased because of the increased cost of claims.
Finally, make sure that you stay safe if you are making some of the repairs or clean up yourself. Stay away from power lines that may be down on the road, and always take extra precaution when using your chainsaw and other power tools. I hope these tips can help you prepare for the hurricane season in Florida this year. Just like anything else, investing in being prepared can take a tremendous amount of uncertainty and stress if a hurricane hits.