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How to navigate the home insurance claims process

Rebuilding after Hurricane Ian
Insurance claims
Posted at 5:22 PM, Oct 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-12 19:21:24-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — If your home got damaged by Hurricane Ian, you're probably looking to file an insurance claim. Adjustors, assignment of benefits, preferred network — these terms can be overwhelming, especially if you've never filed before.

"As soon as you know that you have damage, whether it’s wind or it’s flood, contact the insurance company," said Blake Chapman, owner of State Insurance USA.

After that, they're going to assign an adjustor to your claim. He says it could take time for them to come out because of the demand. Once your adjustor does the inspection, their report will go to a desk adjustor. They look at policy coverages and field reports.

In the meantime, you can be proactive.

"Start doing some simple repairs to make sure or to mitigate future loss or additional losses," Chapman said. "Tarping a roof, or pulling out drywall if they had flood damage."

While waiting for an adjustor, start looking at estimates to fix your home, but make sure they're from legitimate contractors.

"See what your actual damage is and will actually expedite the claims process," Chapman said. "Don’t fully rely on the adjustor’s report because they might miss something, because they’re going from home to home to home."

As you go through the process, know everything may not be covered.

"99 percent of policies have an exclusion for flood insurance," Chapman said. "Did the wind come first or did the flood second? Everything is going to be decided by the adjustors."

Flooding is a policy that's outside of your regular one purchased.

Pool cages may also not be covered, depending on your policy.

"Some cover it in full, the amount or whatnot under the dwelling coverage, and most have an exclusion for it," Chapman said.

In addition to the damage, a tarp is likely on your mind if your roof is damaged.

"Ask the carrier when you first file the claim, there’s typically a question 'do you need tarping?'" Chapman said. "See if the carrier has a disaster response that can come out and tarp it within the next few days."

There are a lot of contractors out there, but not all of them are legitimate. Some may try to get you to sign over your assignment of benefits.

"Traditionally if this is your primary home and this is where you intend to stay, I would not sign that," Chapman said. "Basically, you’re giving over all your rights and your policy provisions."

He says there's a strain on the amount of tarping and emergency services that can be done right now. While you're waiting, Chapman says you do have an obligation to protect your home.

"If your roof has a hole in it, you have a duty to protect that. Something as simple as a tarp to help prevent further damage," Chapman said. "It’s something that’s a clause or provision in the policy."

You can get a tarp from non-profits, Operation Blue Roof and potentially local churches, Chapman said. If you pay for it on your own, make sure to keep your proof of purchase.

"They want to keep a receipt if they paid anything for that that’s going to against the deductible, that’s going to go against the damages of that loss," Chapman explained.

Tristan Starbird with Trademark Roofing says if you can't find a tarp, you could use an adhesive to protect your roof, but you'll have to replace the shingles.

When it comes to this whole process, between an inspection and fixing your home, Chapman said it could take months or well into the middle of next year, especially if you have severe flood damage.

If you decide to go the contractor route, Chapman suggests asking your insurance company for their preferred list of contractors in order to protect you and your wallet.