Dealing with the Aftermath of Our Early Summer Storms
Insurance Commissioner Gerhart Offers Tips
Des Moines, June 18, 2014— Over the last several days, many areas in the state have suffered the impact of windstorms, tornados, hailstorms, power outages and flooding. With the exception of flooding, losses from such events may be covered under homeowners, renters, automobile and commercial insurance policies that we regulate. As a guide to helping the claims process move forward as well as possible, Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart reminds Iowans of tips that may be useful in helping property owners as they file claims with their insurers.
“Iowans who were affected by these disasters need to know there is help available to them from the Iowa Insurance Division as they get their claims filed and begin to work with their insurance companies.” Gerhart said. “If they’re not getting the good service we expect from Iowa’s companies, agents and adjusters, consumers with claim issues, can call at 1-877-955-1212 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Messages left outside of those hours will also be promptly returned the next business day. Another way to contact us is through the complaint form on our website atwww.iid.state.ia.us.”
Here are some basic tips for handling the filing of the claim and for working with your damaged property:
· Contact your insurance agent or company as soon as possible. If possible, have your policy numbers available when you call. Ask what documents, forms, and data you'll need to file a claim. Advise them if you no longer have documents and learn what alternative documents can be provided.
· People with property losses may find themselves being contacted by someone who identifies themselves as a public adjuster. Iowans who choose to work with public adjusters should make sure to ask to see their license before doing business with them. Public adjusters work for the policyholder, and charge a fee from the policyholder. Company adjusters do not charge fees.
· Keep track of all the expenses associated with the loss and keep copies of all of your paperwork. This is the time to consult your personal possessions inventory that you have hopefully well in advance of losses. This will save you a lot of time in determining the extent of loss and will be helpful in getting settlements more quickly If you haven’t done an inventory and saved it someplace safe, put this task on your list to do when things return to normal. Many tools exist to help in this, including some we can offer.
· Take photographs or video of the damage. Keep a copy for your files and have copies for your insurance company.
· If your property is partially damaged, try to protect it against further losses by making temporary repairs. Make the repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property. Don’t have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs. Keep receipts associated with such repairs, as these may be reimbursable under your insurance.
· If your home is damaged to the extent that you can’t live there, ask your insurance company if you have coverage for additional living expenses. Call the company to advise them of your temporary location. Also leave information about how you can be contacted at your property in case an adjuster comes to the property for a damage assessment.
· If you have damaged appliances, furniture, and other contents for which you will be filing claims, don’t throw that damaged property away unless instructed to do so by your insurance adjuster, and don’t start permanent repairs without prior approval from your insurer.
Even though standard policy provisions exclude flood damage, don’t assume water damage is not covered. Circumstances and policy language will dictate. If you have sewer back-up coverage as a supplement to your policy, some help may be available. Also, if your water damage comes as a result of a tree opening your home and rain being driven in by wind, there may be help. Review your policy provisions with your agent to make sure.
· Be sure to ask contractors for references and check them before you sign a contract for repairs, removal or replacement. Check with the Better Business Bureau, or the Consumer Protection Division of the Iowa Attorney General’s office at 888-777-4590 to make sure the company has a good track record or to report suspected price gouging. The Iowa Workforce Development’s Division of Labor has an online registry of contractors you can check to see if a contractor is registered. www.iowaworkforce.org/labor/contractor.htm.
· Don’t be pressured into signing the first contract that is presented to you. Be wary of contractors who demand upfront payment before work is initiated or payment in full before work is completed. If the contractor needs payment to buy supplies, go with the contractor and pay the supplier directly.
· You have the right to choose which contractor will repair your home. Your insurer may provide you with a list of pre-approved contractors, but as the policyholder, you have the final say in contractor selection.
If you do not receive a payment from your insurer consistent with the terms of your policy in a timely fashion, you can call the Insurance Division for advice and assistance. If you have flood insurance you purchased from the National Flood Insurance Program and have experienced flood losses, your agent may be able to help you file your claim with that federal agency.
About the Iowa Insurance Division
The Iowa Insurance Division (IID) has general control, supervision and direction over all insurance and securities business transacted in the state, and enforces Iowa’s laws and regulations. The IID investigates consumer complaints and prosecutes companies, agents and brokers engaging in unfair trade practices. Consumers with insurance or securities-related questions or complaints may contact the IID toll free at 877-955-1212 or visit the division on the web at www.iid.state.ia.us.