Tornadoes recently killed at least 74 people, leaving behind hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in damage in Kentucky. If you own a damaged home, you probably have homeowner’s insurance that should cover at least part of the damage. But policies vary and what happened to your home is unique. Here are some suggestions to get the most of your claim.
File a Claim With Your Insurer
If you haven’t already, contact your insurer. You could also contact your local agent, but they may be overwhelmed with other claims and damage to their property. Your policy may have deadlines to meet, so don’t put this off too long. You may be able to make a claim through an app on your smartphone or tablet or online. You don’t need to provide all the details. This is just to start the process to get your claim resolved sooner than later.
Ideally, you have access to your policy. If not, your agent should have one. It may be difficult to understand, but its language is the basis of what will be covered, not covered, and how much your insurer may be obligated to pay you.
As best as you can, thoroughly document the damage through photos and videos. Create a list of what’s damaged and destroyed. Keep receipts of everything you’ve paid for since the disaster. You may get reimbursement for at least some of it (government disaster assistance may be of help too). If you can reach one, find a local, reliable contractor who can give you repair estimates you can include in your claim.
Protect Yourself When Working With an Insurance Company
Keep notes of any conversations with insurance employees, adjusters, or your agent. Follow up conversations with emails or text messages. You need a “paper trail” to document who said what to whom, when, in case there’s push back from the insurance carrier, and they start denying things they told you.
There will be claim forms to fill out. Do so to the best of your ability. When in doubt, ask your carrier questions, and document the answers. Given the widespread destruction, you may not be able to fill claims forms any time soon. Do your best, let the company know this is an ongoing crisis, and you will update your claim as quickly as you can. You may get a partial payment with a final settlement in the future.
Be as comprehensive as possible with your claim. Include everything that’s been destroyed or damaged. Given how widespread the damage and how many claims will be filed, you may be tempted to engage in insurance fraud by including items you never owned or damage that didn’t happen. Insurance fraud is not only a reason to deny your claim. It’s a crime that could put you in jail.
Do not sign anything waiving your rights to pursue further reimbursement for your losses. It’s far too soon, there’s too much chaos going on, not enough contractors for you to have a clear picture of the harm you suffered and how much you should be paid.
Make Necessary Repairs as Soon as Possible
Unless your home is a total loss after you have evidence to back your claim, make emergency repairs to make your home livable or at least reduce the chances of further damage due to rain leaking into your home. Your policy may require that you do this, and your carrier may blame you for additional damage if repairs aren’t done.
If you’re not comfortable doing repairs yourself, don’t risk your life and health fixing your house. Contractors are in short supply, but try to use one if necessary. If you can’t do the repairs yourself or hire someone else, you need to show you made a good faith effort to do so.
Payments or Lack Thereof
Depending on your situation, payment by your insurance company may take anywhere from days to years. Partial payments may come quickly, but considering how overwhelmed the adjusters are and how much good faith your insurance company may have, a complete and final payment may take time.
Insurance companies make more money when they pay out less. Given the scope of the destruction and the insurance companies’ potential liability, they may play hardball and short-change you. They may also take advantage of your vulnerability and need to get your home repaired. When in doubt, don’t agree to a settlement. Take your time to think about it and call our office if you think something’s not right.
Get the Help You Need from an Attorney You Can Trust
Tornadoes have inflicted Kentucky with a historic blow in lost lives and property damage. But we’re re-building as best we can, as soon as we can. A lot of that will be funded by insurance claims. The Fleck Firm knows insurance law, how these companies work, and how they may try to nickel and dime you.
- Help you put together the best claim possible
- Communicate and negotiate with the insurance carrier
- Take them to court if necessary
If you have questions, need help with your claim, or think your carrier is acting in bad faith in denying your claims, call our office today at (270) 446-7000. Insurance companies have lawyers. You should have one too.