With more tornadoes on the way tonight after last weekend’s deadly twisters that killed 45 and left hundreds of homes damaged and destroyed, it’s important to have your ducks in a row to get your tornado insurance claim check issued quickly should disaster strike. After you shake off the daze and dust from the destruction, what do you do to get your cash fast and get on the road to repair and recovery?
1. Take a sigh of relief.
Unlike the well-publicized problems people had making claims after some recent notable hurricanes, for the most part a standard homeowner’s policy covers tornadoes as straight-up wind damage. (Unless the tornado pushed water onto/into your home, but that’s a different case).
2. Contact your insurer immediately.
Let them know ASAP that you are going to make a claim and give a rough estimate of the damage. Go into as much detail as you can so they know how to prioritize your claim. Different states have different statutes of limitations for making a claim, so don’t dawdle.
3. Document document document.
Take photos of all the destruction. Gather up all the receipts you have and inventory the damaged property. Note the item, when you bought it, how much it cost and how much you estimate it would cost to replace it. Call your credit card company for records if you don’t have the cost on hand. If you have to stay in a hotel or eat out at restaurants while your house is under repair, keep those receipts as the insurer will reimburse you.
* DID YOU KNOW…
Even spoiled food is eligible for coverage, usually up to $300-$500.
4. Get detailed estimates for repairs.
Contact licensed contractors and get several estimates for permanent repairs.
5. Give your insurance agent a detailed description.
Use the info above to help file your claim.
6. Make temporary repairs.
Cover up broken windows, and shore up/cover damaged roofs and walls as needed to prevent further damage.
Watch out for hustlers preying on those prying themselves out the wreckage. They may try to rush you into overpaying for temporary repairs. In other instances homeowners have been pressured into making big deposits for repairs, only for the “contractor” to disappear and never be heard from again. Don’t let panic freak you out of doing your normal due diligence.
7. Wait for the check to arrive.
Claims are usually processed in the order of severity. An obliterated house will take precedent over one that is just missing a few shingles.
8. If your claim seems stuck in nowhere-land, escalate.
Standard Consumerist customer service escalation tactics apply. Be polite and professional but persistent. Write down who you talked to and when. Ask for supervisors. If the delay is inordinate and unwarranted, you always have the executive customer service and EECB routes. For egregious cases, consider filing a complaint with your state’s insurance commissioner to get things moving along.
9. Make a donation.
However bad you have it after a disaster, there’s always someone else in even greater need. Consider giving money to the Red Cross or another relief charity. Karma has a funny way of coming around.