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.
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.
- 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!