May 16th, 2014
Be Prepared for Spring Time Storm Damage Claims
Although the first day of spring was months ago, the Ohio Valley is just starting to enter the rainy season that traditionally marks the transition out of winter. Did you have property damaged in this week's hail and rain? Read on to see how attorney Michelle Marinacci has previously suggested you handle such a situation.
As spring time approaches the Ohio Valley, so does the risk of severe storms damaging our homes and businesses. Being prepared in the event you sustain storm damage will make the claim process easier and, in the event your insurer does not handle your claim fairly and in compliance with its policy obligations, you will be prepared to take the appropriate legal action. Below are some helpful hints to assist you in dealing with the results of a damaging spring or summer storm:
1. Read your policy carefully. Know what is and is not covered and whether you have purchased sufficient limits to adequately protect your valuable property. For example, many types of water run-off damage are not covered under terms commonly included in ordinary homeowners' policies. If you believe your policy does not provide all the coverage you want or need, contact your agent regarding purchasing additional coverage. Additionally, the policy may impose strict time limits for reporting claims or impose requirements regarding securing property from addition damage. Knowing what is expected of you before a storm-related claim arises will make the stressful, confusing post-storm period a little easier to deal with. Reading and knowing your policy provisions beforehand will also allow you to be prepared in the event a dispute arises with your insurance company relating to your claim. Many policies contain alternative dispute resolution provisions or appraisal provisions
which must be utilized before legal action may be taken or impose strict time limits on filing a claim related law suit.
2. Document your losses. Take pictures of the damage and make a list of all property sustaining damage. You should also estimate the value of all damaged personal property. While it is not necessary to go to stores and find current sale prices for damaged property, you should provide estimates that are to the best of your ability. Keep a list of all storm related expenses you incur. Even if your policy does not require you to prepare and submit such a list, it is in your best interests to do so. Remember - the adjuster handling your claim works for the insurance company and may not have your best interests in mind when documenting losses. It is helpful to have your own list prepared to compare to that prepared by the adjuster on behalf of the insurance company.
3. Communicate in writing when possible and document oral conversations. By communicating in writing with your insurer you are creating a paper trail. The insurance company documents all oral conversations and so should you. Your contemporaneous notes of an oral communication or follow-up letter may be necessary later when the insurer's "recollection" of the conversation is different than yours. When disputes arise, the timing and content of communications are critical to establishing an insurer's liability.
4. Take care to ensure accuracy. When filing out claim forms, take your time and provide the most accurate information you can. Even honest mistakes can be cited by the insurer as a reason to deny a claim. If you realize you made a mistake, correct it in writing as soon as possible.
5. Submit a competing estimate. If you get an estimate from the insurance company that seems low or unfair, get an estimate from one or more contractors you trust to the insurance company. Timely providing contrary estimates to the insurer for consideration strengthens future actions against the insurer for failing to honor its policy obligations when the insurer chooses to ignore the estimates you provide.
If, after taking these steps, you are not satisfied with how your claim was handled, you should consult legal counsel before cashing any check provided to you by the insurance company or signing a release. If the insurer has not handled the claim fairly, legal recourse may be available to obtain the money you are owed under your insurance policy and repair your property damage properly.
This article is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this website or any of the email links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between Bordas & Bordas and the user or browser.