Hurricane Sandy. Frankenstorm vs. Frank Adjustments.

With Hurricane Sandy looming up close in New Jersey, I’d like to post a number of insurance claim related tips that can be found on the NJ Department of Banking and Insurance website.

hurricane SandyTips for Hurricanes:

Planning ahead for a hurricane can reduce the chances of injury or major property damage. Remember that a hurricane watch means that a hurricane may occur within the next 24 to 36 hours. A hurricane warning means that a hurricane will probably strike your area within the next 24 hours. Once a hurricane watch is issued, it may be too late to take some of the following precautions. Therefore, it is important to make preparations in advance of the hurricane season.

The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance recommends the following tips on what to do before and after a hurricane or tropical storm.

Before a Hurricane or Tropical Storm:

Protect Yourself and Your Family

  • Plan your escape route early in case you need to evacuate.
  • Stock up on drinking water, canned goods, a manual can opener and other non-perishable foods. If you need any medicine on a regular basis, be sure you have an adequate supply to cover several days.
  • Have access to a working portable radio. This may be your only link with the outside world and will keep you advised of the storm’s path. Stock up on extra batteries.
  • A cell phone with a fully charged battery may be helpful in case of an emergency. Also, a disposable camera may assist you in recording any damage that may occur as a result of a storm.
  • Maintain a supply of flashlights, candles and kerosene lamps. Store matches in waterproof containers and have adequate lantern fuel.

Protect Your Property

  • Prepare an inventory of personal property, including sales receipts or photos of household contents.
  • Photos or videotape recordings may be helpful for insurance purposes. Make sure to store the inventory and the photos/videotapes off the premises, to help facilitate the claim filing process if your belongings are damaged.
  • Store valuables and personal papers in a waterproof container on the highest level of your home.

Locate your homeowners insurance policy, identify your insurance company and policy number. Have the claims-reporting telephone number of your insurer and agent in a safe and easily accessible place.
Review your insurance policy, especially the “declarations” page, and check whether your policy pays replacement costs, or actual cash value for a covered loss. Actual cash value is the cost of an item less depreciation (a decrease in value due to age, wear and tear, etc.) If you have personal property replacement cost coverage, your insurance will pay the full cost to repair an item or buy a new one. Typically, however, the building is covered with replacement cost and the contents with actual cash value.

Damage by windstorms such as hurricanes is generally covered under a standard homeowners policy, but there may be a deductible or other specific restriction that applies to your policy. (A deductible is the amount of the loss which you (the insured) is responsible to pay before benefits from the insurance company are payable.) It is very important to insure your home and belongings to their full replacement cost.

Flooding may occur during a hurricane, but it can also happen anytime as the result of torrential rains and poor drainage.
Flooding is not covered under standard homeowners policies.
Ask your agent or emergency management office about the National Flood Insurance Program. There is normally a 30-day waiting period before a new flood insurance policy becomes effective.
Homeowners policies do not cover damage from flooding that accompanies a hurricane.
If you rent a house or apartment, talk to your agent about purchasing a renters insurance policy if you don’t already have one.

Practical Matters

  • Board up windows, protect them with storm shutters or place tape “X’s” on windows from one corner diagonally to another.
  • Secure all outdoor objects that could be blown around by storm winds.
  • If you own a boat, move it to a safer place, or at least strengthen the mooring lines.
  • If you live in a mobile home, check tie-downs and leave immediately for a safer place.

Following a Hurricane or Tropical Storm:

NEW: Commissioner Considine Offers Tips To Consumers Filing Insurance Claims after Hurricane Irene:

  • If your property has been damaged, report the loss immediately to your insurance company or agent.
  • Take pictures of the damage, both to the house and its contents, for insurance claims. Many companies have toll-free phone numbers to help customers report claims.
  • If you have vacated the premises, make sure that your agent knows where to contact you.
  • Make a reasonable attempt to protect your property from further damage (mitigation: see right). Cover openings in exterior walls, windows or roof with plywood, plastic or other material. If these steps are unsafe, call a qualified and reputable contractor. Keep receipts for any repairs.
  • Attempt to separate damaged personal property items from undamaged items so that the claims adjuster can better assist you in completing an inventory and expediting the settlement of your claim.
  • Following a loss you may decide to retain a public adjuster to assist you in presenting the claim to your insurance company. In New Jersey, public adjusters must be licensed by the Department of Banking and Insurance. Remember that they represent YOU – not the insurance company – and are paid by you out of the proceeds of your claim. If you choose to hire a public adjuster, make sure that they are licensed.

Please contact New Jersey Public Adjusters and one of our licensed public adjusters will be ready to advise and assist you with all of your insurance questions and needs. Help is only a phone call away! We will advise from the start on the proper way to present your claim. Learn the lessons from Hurricane Irene. There were so many confused and helpless people in the aftermath of the hurricane who did not present their claim properly. Hire a professional to do it for you!

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6 Tips prior to Hurricane Irene.

1)Locate your insurance policy and verify that it is up to date. Keep it in a safe, accessible place.
2)Check your policy Dec page and see if there is a special “hurricane
deductible” which is usually written as a % rather than a flat $500 or
$1,000 deductible.

3)It’s a pretty good idea to snap some photos of your home’s exterior including the roof and siding to document the condition of your home before the hurricane hits.

4)It’s a very good idea to snap photos of damage after it occurs to document
the scope of damage in the event of a claim.

5)Emergency repair to your home (i.e. tarping a roof/ extracting water/ etc)
is allowed even before the insurance company sees the damage. So photograph
and repair as needed. However more than emergency repairs is not advisable
until the insurance company can eyeball the damage.

6)Typically a hurricane brings with it two forms of damages, one related to
wind damage and the other related to flood damage. Unfortunately, many of us
who live inland do not have Flood coverage through FEMA and will not be covered
in the event flooding occurs in our area. Sadly, it is too late to purchase
flood insurance for this storm as there is usually a 30 day lag time before
it goes into effect. Therefore it will be very important to present the
claim properly in the event of damage so that you will not be denied. Allow
a professional public adjuster to review your policy language and your
damage so he may properly advise you and present the claim to your
advantage.

For example, if wind causes roof damage which results in water entering your
home – you ARE covered as the cause of the loss is WIND. But if the
groundwater level rises due to saturation and enters your home you typically
are not covered. If the wind/rain claim is reported as “I have a flood in
my house” you may be unfairly denied. Be sure to check with a public
adjuster before you call in a claim.

For any insurance claim advice, feel free to call Frank Adjustments at (732)
905-9594.

Everyone please stay safe!

Posted in flood, hurricane, Insurance, New Jersey Public Insurance Adjuster, Public Adjuster, Sewer Backup, storm damage, Uncategorized, water damage, wind damage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

You may be smarter than me. You still need a Public Adjuster.

The other day an acquaintance of mine came over to me looking all proud of himself. What’s up? Well, he had a tree fall down on a portion of his house during a particularly violent and windy thunderstorm in the area, ruining some roofing and some siding. To top it all off, rain got in as well, soaking the insulation and ceiling of his kitchen and nearby family room.

A lot of damage.

He was proud of how well he did with the insurance company and how although he knew a public adjuster helps people with their insurance claim, he never found a public adjuster more clever than him, including me (“hope you don’t mind my saying so, but it’s the truth ain’t it”).

Ahem.

I congratulated him on a job well done but asked if he minds my looking over his estimate of damage prepared by the insurance company. Strangely enough he had it on him. Weird. I mean I know he’s proud of his negotiating prowess with the insurance company but to the extent that he will carry it around with him for the next couple of months is sorta overdoing it.  OK. Whatever floats his boat…

It took two seconds to find it. I couldn’t really comment on the rest of the estimate because I had never seen the damage. But this omission was a real boo-boo.

You see many insureds are unaware that if the damage repair entails multiple trade disciplines, they are entitled to a general contractor to do the work. This means that this poor soul was entitled to have 20% added on to his estimate of damage (10% Overhead and 10% Profit). It wasn’t.

So that was at least $7,000 that he would have gained had he used a public adjuster. The guy was incredulous. He (bashfully) invited me over to take a look at his damaged house to see if anything else was missing from the estimate.

I’ll try to make it over there next week……

It’s not that a public adjuster is smarter than anyone else. They just have the training, experience and knowledge to assure the highest possible settlement outcome.

It pays to use a NJ Public Adjuster.

Posted in New Jersey Public Insurance Adjuster, Public Adjuster, storm damage, wind damage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sewer Backup can drain your bank account. Insured?

Here we go again.

With the heavy rain season upon us, the sewer and drain backup calls start coming in. A person can come home after a heavy rain and find his basement covered in raw sewage, blackwater and various gross and unidentifiable objects doing the backstroke across your basement floor. sewer backupSomehow, pre-used toilet paper streaming across your basement walls doesn’t bring out the party in you.

Unfortunately, most policies exclude sewer and drain backups and even the ones that don’t, severely limit the coverage. I’ve seen $10,000 limits, $5,000 limits and $2,500 limits. Not to mention all out exclusions. That stinks. Literally. The shock registering on people’s faces when I tell them it’s not covered is heart wrenching. A finished basement that suffers a sewer backflow can easily have damage worth $15,000-$40,000.

Don’t be foolish. Look over your policy today or have your agent review it for you. Ask them if sewer or drain backup is excluded and if not what kind of coverage do you have? Ask how much it costs to get an endorsement or rider for sewer backup coverage. You’ll be surprised at how little it costs to get that endorsement or to raise the limits to a more reasonable number.

NJ Public Adjuster Tip: Another piece of advice is to have a backflow valve (or backwater check valve) installed. This has prevented many homes from going through this type of yucky disaster and it is quite an inexpensive investment. Do a search for “sewer backup backflow valve” and you can read up all about it.

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I’m in or Urine – not both. A leaky vandalism insurance claim.

Ugh.

I was called down to help out a frantic Greek lady (read:LOUD) with an alleged vandalism insurance claim. What happened? Virginia tells me that she and her son were at a party on Christmas Eve when vandals broke into her home and get this – urinated all over her carpets, her drapes, her mattresses and her couches. Eh? How much beer did they have to drink to unleash that much water? I don’t think a camel could have quite managed it.

 

I don't think this camel will make it...

Don’t get me wrong. There indeed was a stale urine smell that hit me when I entered her apartment. I’m not questioning that. It’s just too bizarre to wrap my mind around the graphic images that enter my mind as I try to visualize the scene that took place that day. What? Ten guys requiring a leak broke into the apartment, positioned themselves in various strategic positions around the home and on the count of three let loose?

I asked for the police report which is required any time someone files a vandalism insurance claim. Reading through it, I pick up a healthy dose of skepticism as to the veracity of the claim. Apparently, the lady called the police when she arrived home and found the door ajar with signs of forced entry. She and her son were “slurring their words, obviously under influence of an unknown substance, were both talking in a loud and boisterous manner and their breath smelled of alcohol”. The upstairs neighbors, according to the police report, contend that in fact they never left their home Christmas Eve.

Sounds to me like Momma and son were having a wild party at home and couldn’t quite make it to the bathroom. Then again, how did they manage to hit the drapes?

Unsolved mystery.

I felt bad but I declined to take on this loss.  Although she begged me to help her as a public adjuster, something didn’t smell right and I’m not talking about her drapes. Or her breath.

I think I was right. Wasn’t I?

 

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What do you get when you cross a Mortar and Pestle and Ceramic Tile?

Damage. That’s what.

I thought these were extinct?

I was recently called by a distraught woman to come help her with her ceramic tile damage. She has a very ill son who takes up a lot of her time and she was worried that she was being taken advantage of by her insurance company.

I went down there and she shows me into her beautiful custom home. There in the kitchen between her wall cabinets and the island cabinets, one of the ceramic tiles had a hole “punctured” through it. Have never seen anything quite like it.  She told me that she was using this heavy mortar and pestle to crush some spices and it slipped off the counter and punctured the tile. I thought they stopped using mortar and pestles post Biblical times but a quick peek at Amazon proved me wrong. Many people are still buying them! BLAM! That pesky pestilential pestle went straight through the tile.

Anyway, the insurance adjuster came up with this wonderful idea, that although no matching tiles can be found, why don’t we just get decorative tile to replace the broken one and we will just lay decorative tile around the perimeter of the kitchen island cabinets. It will look pretty and no one will ever know that this wasn’t your original kitchen!

Well. No one besides the homeowner. She didn’t want a decorative perimeter around her kitchen island cabinets. They offered her only a couple of thousand dollars to take care of this mess.

Now this was a HUGE kitchen and the tiles continued into a huge front foyer. I understand that the insurance company wants to save money but sadly this is not what she is entitled to. Her insurance policy entitles her to get her kitchen back to pre-damage condition, not to a new designer look inspired by the insurance company’s penchant to save money.

After a couple of weeks of negotiation the insurance company agreed to re-tile the entire continuous area. The check jumped from $4,100 to $21,000. Big difference.

Get an insurance advocate on your side. Use a New Jersey Public Adjuster to settle your claim properly.

Posted in ceramic tiles, Insurance, New Jersey Public Insurance Adjuster, Public Adjuster | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t Play Around with your Kitchen Fire Claim!

A new insurance claim came my way recently which again demonstrates the advantage of utilizing a New Jersey Public Adjuster.

Kitchen cabinet Fire

Playing around with your Kitchen Fire Claim?

The fellow placed a lit Hanukkah Menorah too close to his kitchen cabinets, accidentally setting one of them on fire. That of course wasn’t too bright, but accidents do happen as well as errors in judgement. Furthermore, I have never found an insurance policy that lists “stupidity” as an exclusion.

It wasn’t a major fire but it was sufficient to warrant the replacement of that cabinet. The insurance adjuster looked over the damage and wrote out a check to replace the cabinet. This left him scratching his head. How was a new cabinet going to look when installed next to his 18 year old kitchen cabinets? Well. Awful.

He called up New Jersey Public Adjusters and asked if we can help out. I looked over his policy and looked over his kitchen. It was a beautiful custom cherry cabinet kitchen with that one eyesore smack in middle of it. We made the argument that the scope of this damage was more than this one cabinet. In fact the entire kitchen was damaged by this fire. Replacing one cabinet will not indemnify this loss. The kitchen will still look damaged even after the replacement of this cabinet. After a couple of weeks of negotiation, the insurance company agreed to replace the cabinet and reface the rest of the kitchen at the same time, assuring a uniform look and bringing the kitchen back up to pre-damage condition.

I’ll say it again. It pays to be represented by a New Jersey Public Adjuster!

Posted in Fire, fire damage, Insurance, kitchen cabinets, kitchen fire, New Jersey Public Insurance Adjuster, Public Adjuster | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Faster or Larger, That is the Question!

Isn’t it funny how two people can look the same exact thing and arrive at totally different conclusions?

Slow Money Recently, OPEGGA (Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability – an office of the Florida Legislature) released a study analyzing the effect of Public Adjusters on the insurance industry. They compared the outcome of an insured using the services of a public adjuster to one who tries to do it on his own.

The conclusion was startling.

They studied 76,321 Citizens claims filed between 2008-2009 in Florida. Their findings were that a public adjuster involvement extends the time to reach settlement however it significantly increases the payment. Listen to this: catastrophic claims originating in 2005 using Public Adjusters increased payments by over 700%!!!! Non catastrophic claims increased by over 500%!!!! See report here

Public Adjusters have been saying this for years. Insurance companies routinely underpay insurance claims. You need representation to level the playing field and get properly compensated for your damage.

Imagine my surprise when I found a number of insurance companies quoting this same report as saying how harmful Public Adjusters are to the insurance industry. The unfortunate homeowners will have to wait longer to get their money.

HUH?

Would a person rather get only $1,000 albeit in 30 days to fix his $8,000 damage or a full $8,000 albeit in 90 days to fix his damage properly? Fast pennies or slow thousands?

They complain that without the Public Adjuster’s involvement we can get the claim settled very quickly. True. BUT AT WHAT COST? Excellent, you can close the file real quick and get it off your desk, but the homeowner is left with a damaged house!!!! What good is quick settlements if you can’t use that money to repair the damage?????

Another thing overlooked, is that a Public Adjuster will certainly facilitate an advance from the insurance company, if the funds are immediately necessary. So in reality, that same $1,000 will be in their pocket within said 30 days. The only difference will be the remaining $7,000 that will eventually be negotiated over the course of the next few months.

I’m still scratching my head. Aren’t you?

?
Posted in Fire, flood, Insurance, New Jersey Public Insurance Adjuster, overflow, Public Adjuster, Sewer Backup, Uncategorized, water damage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get the Reserve you Deserve! A well kept insurance secret.

One of the most common statements we hear from victims of large losses is “let me first see what the insurance company offers, if I’m unhappy – I’ll give you a call.”

Although this may seem logical and prudent, it can cost you tens of thousands of dollars and here’s why.

This concept is a well kept insurance industry insider secret. From the very start of any claim, the insurance company will make a preliminary evaluation of the loss. This is called setting a “reserve”. This reserve value constitutes the approximate total value of loss to the insurance company. The insurance adjuster bases the “reserve” solely upon his or her best “guesstimate” with limited documentation of what they feel the claim should be settled for. The insurance company is then required to set aside that amount in reserves for your claim. It is crucial to your successful settlement that this figure be realistic for your specific loss. The insurance company expects this preliminary reserve to be as accurate as possible.

It naturally will become exceedingly difficult to negotiate a settlement which will exceed the amount set aside in reserve. I mean, this was the whole point of the reserve. Additionally, should the actual settlement prove to exceed the initial reserve, the adjuster’s reputation as an expert is now on the line. So you now have two things working against you, the insurance company who won’t pay over the amount reserved for this loss as well as the adjuster himself who wants to preserve his reputation.

Not a good thing.

When a Public Adjuster is involved from the start, he prepares an accurate estimate and hands it to the insurance company adjuster at their first meeting. The insurance adjuster will have an accurate number at which he will set his reserve and actually be thankful that this challenging step in the process has been taken care of by the Public Adjuster. It is a win-win situation.

We have witnessed many situations where the insurance company has acted unreasonably stubborn in paying a claim and upon further investigation realized that the reserve was yet again inadequately set.

Hire a Public Adjuster immediately. Don’t let the reserve work against you.

Posted in Insurance, New Jersey Public Insurance Adjuster, Public Adjuster, reserve | 3 Comments

Do you know what you own? NJ Public Adjuster helps fire victim.

Case file #3

A couple of months ago we received a call from a young woman in Asbury Park. Her house that she was renting burned down to the ground due to a massive fire at 2 am in the morning. This left her with absolutely nothing other than the shirt on her back. Thankfully, she had renters insurance that covered the contents of her house.

NJ Public Adjusters Tip: We have had many cases where a tenant lost everything due to a fire but did not have renters insurance. They assumed the owner’s insurance covers them. BIG MISTAKE! The owner’s insurance will only cover the structure but NOT the contents belonging to the tenant! They were left with absolutely nothing and we were unable to help them. Piece of advice: if you are currently renting – look into renters insurance. In case of the unthinkable – you will be covered.

So this woman comes to us, a single girl expecting a baby in a few months with no place to live and all her worldly possessions gone. She has no idea where to start. Her family all lived out of state and she felt truly alone. She needed at least some money quickly to buy the bare necessities.

New Jersey Public Adjusters took on the case. We of course got the insurance company to forward money to her to cover her immediate needs. The challenge facing us was, when a house is completely destroyed by the fire and razed the next day by the city due to safety concerns, you have nothing to work with at all. What type of furniture did she have? Clothing? Appliances? Electronics? Jewelry? DVDs? How many of each? The woman, in her distraught state after such a traumatic event could hardly think clearly enough to come up with an inventory list to present to the insurance company.

Think about it. If your house was completely destroyed, would you be able to come up with list of EVERYTHING you own? You have nothing to go by other than your own memory. Does your wife remember how many shoes she owns? Do you know exactly how many tools you have? DVDs? Pieces of jewelry? Socks?Can you mentally go through every drawer in your house and tell me what’s in it? Do you know what’s in your storage room or garage if you have to document what you lost? Difficult.

NJ Public Adjusters Tip:It is highly recommended that you take off 30 minutes on Sunday and run through your home with a camcorder. Open up all drawers and closets and just walk around the room talking about the various items you are capturing on camera. Keep the CD/Video/DVD off site. It will save you hours of heartache and grief in case of the unthinkable. It will save you thousands of dollars of unclaimed contents. Additionally, with photographs or videos the insurance company will give you a much easier time. There are a number of inventory services out there that will do this for you for approximately $350.00. If you have the money and don’t have the time, you cannot afford NOT to do this.

In the end, we did manage to secure for her: $40,000 from her insurance company. We just had to mentally go through with her – room by room, jogging her memory about possible items she overlooked and we came up with the inventory. She was very appreciative that she had a NJ Public Adjuster there for her every step of the way, answering questions and helping her out.

I keep telling you. It pays to have a Public Adjuster on your side.

Henry

www.NewJerseyPublicAdjusters.net

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments