Within the past few decades, we’ve all seen our share of natural disasters in the news. Fortunately, the majority of Americans have been able to avoid many recent disasters, but for those who live through them, the aftermath can be detrimental. Insurance companies are meant to cover many types of property damage after these events, but this process isn’t always the easiest one, or even guaranteed, for that matter. This is why every homeowner should fully understand the risk that they face and how to handle property damage in the unfortunate event of a disaster.
The statistics related to natural disasters and the property damage caused by them are disheartening, and unfortunately, they only seem to be getting worse. Some statistics have actually shown that, when adjusted for inflation, natural disasters resulted in $12.3 billion in damages in the United States alone between 1960 and 2009.
Unfortunately, these large numbers don’t seem poised to go away. Scientists have reported that natural disasters, especially storms and heatwaves, are occurring far more frequently. At one point, the year 2005 was the financially costliest year on record for natural disasters. This wasn’t a surprise since Hurricane Katrina happened that year. This record, however, was shattered in just the first half of 2011. A global loss of $265 billion occurred in the first half of 2011 due to natural disasters; this, of course, dwarfed 2005’s entire year record of $220 billion.
Filing a Claim
The first thing a person needs to do after a natural disaster causes property damage is call their insurance company. They need to alert the insurer of what has happened and let them know that they’d like to file a claim. If the agent cannot be reached, which is sometimes normal immediately following huge disasters, it’s important for that person to leave a contact number where they can be reached.
Pictures should then be taken of everything that was damaged or destroyed during the disaster. This doesn’t, however, mean that damage should be left unrepaired. Clean up should begin immediately after taking photos. It’s also important to at least make temporary repairs that can prevent further damage from occurring (ie. fixing broken windows).
It’s true that an insurance company may not cover all damages, but the expenses related to repairing items damaged in the disaster can likely be written off during tax time if repairs were over 10 percent of a person’s adjusted gross income. Receipts should be kept for all of these repairs. Of course, it’s possible that a home may be uninhabitable. In this case, all receipts should be saved related to hotel lodgings and food costs as well.
Eventually, the insurance company will send out an adjuster to inspect the damage to a person’s property. It never hurts to have a local professional on hand for this (ie. roofer, floor repair contractor). This professional can ensure that a person isn’t being ripped off by their insurer.
What to do if Denied
Having a property damage claim denied often seems as detrimental as the initial disaster itself. Fortunately, there are some things that a person can do. It’s important to inquire as to why the claim was denied, and this should then be followed by a review of the policy to see it the denial is justified. An appeal should also be filed, and this can be done through the insurer.
Unfortunately, most people don’t understand the complex system that is property damage insurance. This has led many people to just accept their denial as an inevitability, but this should never be an option. It’s usually a good idea to hire a property damage attorney to handle all of the aforementioned issues. This will ensure that they get done right, and when a person is represented by a legal professional, insurers are much more likely to be fair.
Natural disasters can cause horrific losses, and although property damage may not be the worst outcome following one of these events, it’s still something that individuals will have to deal with. Unless a person is properly prepared, unfortunately, they will likely not be able to “weather the storm,” so to speak. Luckily, it only takes a bit of planning and forward thinking to ensure that handling property damage is less stressful than it could be.
Anthony Joseph is a freelance writer who enjoys discussing everyday issues that impact us all, and contributes this article for the purpose of possible helping someone. Doyle Raizner is one of the leading property damage attorney firms, and has helped clients fight insurance companies across the country. Their attorneys believe in their clients, and their own abilities to win cases.