Webster's Dictionary describes Insurance as:
An agreement in which a person makes regular payments to a company and the company promises to pay money if the person is injured or dies, or to pay money equal to the value of something (such as a house or car) if it is damaged, lost, or stolen.
In a Disaster or Emergency, Insurance can play a major role in your Financial Recovery.
Before a Disaster
Speak with your insurance agent about your specific needs.
Many Insurance Companies will give you a discount on multiple policies. Some insurances are only available through your State.
It is important to ask the "right" questions about Disaster coverage, depending on where you live.
Some types of Insurance you should consider are:
Vehicle Insurance (auto, motor home, motorcycle, boat, etc.)
Long Term Care Insurance
Insurance can help in a Disaster of any size.
Remember, fair market value is not the same as replacement cost.
Ask your insurance agent about this when setting up your homeowner's or renter's insurance.
Before a Disaster -
►Create an inventory of your personal property, including all model names and serial numbers. Ask about a rider for special jewelry, antiques or art pieces.
Do not overlook items you use seasonally or infrequently and store in
out-of-the-way places, such as special china and silverware, holiday decorations, summer and winter sports equipment, carpentry tools, and baby-care furnishings.
► Keep sales receipts and photograph or videotape each room.
Store the inventory information off the premises, such as with a relative or in a safe deposit box. Give a copy of all your pictures and records to your Insurance Agent.
► Keep the telephone numbers of your Insurance Agent, your Insurance Company’s local claims office, and its home office readily
During a Disaster
Stay safe. The lives of you and your family are your priority.
After a Disaster
► Safety is your top priority.
Make sure the dwelling is safe to stay or to enter if you were not inside. In a larger disaster, this determination may be made by the authorities.
► When you file a claim, you will want to make sure the insurance company pays you fairly for any losses of covered property and damaged or destroyed property.
You will need to prove a loss took place and confirm the value of that loss.
Make a preliminary list of damaged or destroyed items and the degree of damage for the property. Take pictures of the damage. You can then compare these pictures with the ones you took before the disaster.
► Do not consider your preliminary list a final list. Chances are you may forget to list some of the items. As you think of other things,
let your insurance agent know.
If you have experienced weather damage to your home or property,
take the following steps:
► Contact your insurance agent or company immediately to report your loss. The agent will prepare a Notice of Loss form and an adjuster will be assigned to assist you. Follow the instructions given to you by claims personnel. Since there may be a lot of people needing help at the same time, anything you have done before the disaster to prepare for a loss will be to your benefit now.
►Take notes. Start from the beginning and keep a log of the people to whom you spoke and when. Summarize your conversation. Ask questions if you do not understand instructions. If possible,photograph the outside of the premises, showing the damage. Then photograph the inside of the premises, showing the damaged property .
► Figure out the extent of the damage. Separate the damaged from the undamaged property and put it in the best possible order for the adjuster’s examination. If possible, protect the property from further damage.
► Wait for the adjuster to arrive! Do not call anyone to repair or replace your loss without first getting instructions from your adjuster. Your insurer’s visual inspection of your loss may be necessary before repairs are undertaken. Do not throw away damaged property until your company’s adjuster advises you it is all right to do so. If your home is damaged, make only temporary repairs until a claims adjuster looks at the damage. Making permanent repairs before the adjuster’s inspection could trigger a denial of your claim.
IF YOUR WEATHER RELATED CLAIM IS DENIED . . .
After almost every major storm, some consumers feel that the insurance company improperly rejected their claims or unduly delayed payment of settlements. If you think your claim is being denied unfairly, follow these procedures:
► Review the terms of your policy.
Insurance policies are very specific. It is usually a fairly simple matter to determine whether the policy covers a specific weather-related problem.
► Appeal to your agent or the insurance company’s claims manager.
Explain your side of the story. Provide copies of supporting documents and pictures. Send a letter and documents to the claims executive at the insurance company’s headquarters whose address is usually found on the first page of the policy.
► Contact Your State Insurance Department.
After hearing from your insurance company’s claims executive, you still feel your claim hasn’t been handled properly, it may be time to contact the Department of Insurance or Insurance Commissioner for your state. Explain your situation to the consumer representative.
If your situation is substantiated, he may intervene to the insurance company on your behalf.
► If necessary, consult an attorney.
If you decide to hire an attorney, make sure that you understand the fee structure (get it in writing) before you decide to pursue the case. Once you hire an attorney, it is your responsibility to provide a copy of your insurance policy and all other relevant documents. If the company attempts to contact you, refer the person to your attorney, then notify your attorney. The attorney will work directly with the insurance company on your behalf. If the insurance company makes a settlement offer, your attorney must have your agreement before committing to any settlement.
Beware of Home Repair Con Artists!
Unfortunately, disasters bring out the worst in some people. You are at your most vulnerable when disaster strikes, so be wary of people who try to cash in on your misery.
You always must be on your guard for home repair con artists, who overcharge, perform shoddy work and often leave without finishing the job.
To find a quality contractor in the wake of a weather-related disaster, consider these tips:
► Watch out for fly-by-night operators.
Be wary of builders or contractors who go door-to-door selling their services, especially those who are not known in your community.
These individuals may offer dramatically reduced prices because they have supposedly just completed work nearby and claim to have leftover materials.
►Ask friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, insurance agents or claims adjusters for recommendations.
► Deal only with licensed and insured contractors who are credible.
►Investigate the track record of any roofer, builder or contractor you are thinking of hiring. Call the Better Business Bureau or your state's licensing agency.
►Consult your Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints on file about the individual or company in question.
► Do not let a smooth-talking con artist convince you to participate in a scheme to submit a phony insurance claim. You may be tempted by the promise of making some quick money, but will probably be judged every bit as guilty as the contractor.
►Remember that a fast-buck attempt to defraud your insurance company is one way a weather disaster can be made into something even worse.
►In many states, insurance fraud is a felony crime carrying stiff penalties for those convicted.
Know the difference between public and private adjusters.
Private adjustersare either employees of insurance companies or non-employees who contract directly with insurance companies. When disaster strikes, an insurance company often will send a private adjuster to appraise the loss and determine the amount of damages that have occurred.
Public adjustersdeal directly with people possessing insurance. Their fee is deducted from any insurance proceeds paid to the consumer.
Like the private adjuster, the public adjuster appraises losses in order to determine the amount of damages involved. Some public adjusters will promise people, because they work for the customer, that they can negotiate a better settlement from the insurance company. However, the settlements are not uniformly better than those achieved by private adjusters, plus the fee always is deducted from the claim settlement offered by the insurance company.
FACTS ABOUT FLOOD INSURANCE
► Damages due to flooding generally are excluded from coverage under standard homeowners policies.
► Flood insurance can be purchased for any insurable property, even if it is not located in a floodplain. A flood insurance policy can cover almost any building, including rental property and condominiums. Tenants can buy separate protection for their belongings.
► Flood insurance policies insure against damages due to the partial or complete flooding of normally dry land from overflow of inland or tidal waters, unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source, or mud slides or mud flows that are caused by flooding.
► Flood insurance pays actual cash value of property damaged by flood, mud slide and flood related erosion. Replacement coverage also is available. Seepage and damage caused by sewer backup are not covered unless they are directly caused by flood.
►Flood insurance can be purchased through any property or casualty insurance agent licensed in your state. You may contact the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-800-427-4661 to obtain the name of an agent in your local area.
► Generally, there is a 30-day waiting period for flood insurance policies to become effective.
To file your flood insurance claim:
►Contact your agent immediately.
►Make a list of all the possessions in your home and other insured property.
►Obtain as many receipts and photographs of items as possible and keep them in a safe deposit box or other secure place.
►Videotape the interior of your residence, if possible.
►Information on the Federal Flood Insurance Program, including how to fill out claims, coverage issues, companies participating and selling flood insurance and a list of federal and state contacts also can be obtained from United Homeowner’s Association(UHA) through it’s internet site at www.uha.org.
EARTHQUAKE INSURANCE COSTS
Ideally, your earthquake insurance policy should cover the cost to replace or repair your damaged property. To select the right plan for you, consider the following:
► Does the policy cover only your dwelling? Are accessory structures, such as garages, also included?
► Will your policy pay for the contents of your home and for additional living expenses if your home is destroyed or too badly damaged for you to live there before repairs are made?
► Are there any exclusions or limitations to coverage?
► What deductible must you pay before the insurance takes effect?
Earthquake insurance rates are determined differently by each insurance company and can vary widely depending on several factors. Generally, older homes cost more to insure. Wood homes get better rates than brick buildings because wood tends to withstand quake stresses better.
The Insurance Information Institute notes that premiums are also based on the nature of the soil and your house's proximity to recognized fault lines.
In addition, areas are graded on a scale of 1 to 5 for likelihood of quakes, and this is reflected in earthquake insurance rates.
Because earthquake insurance is a type of catastrophic coverage, most policies carry a high deductible — anywhere from 2 to 20 percent of the replacement cost of the structure.
For instance, if the cost to rebuild your house after a quake is $100,000 and your policy has a 2 percent deductible, you would be responsible for the first $2,000.
If you decide to purchase earthquake insurance, buy enough to cover the costs of rebuilding your house and replacing damaged possessions. The amount of insurance you buy should be based on replacement and reconstruction costs, not the market value of your property and possessions.
You should also find out the policy's rules for filing claims before you sign any earthquake insurance policy.
For example, it's important to know how much time you have to file a claim following a quake. When does the time to file start - after the initial earthquake or after the aftershocks subside?
In some cases, damage from earthquakes is not immediately apparent.
Insurance agents are there to help you determine the best coverage for you and your needs. Ask the hard questions. Make sure you understand the policies you have and what they do and do not cover.