Chances are this is your first tornado related claim. These times are very difficult for most so it is important to do all the work you can to help make the claims process easier for yourself and speed up the road to recovery.
1. Get in touch with your insurance company as fast as you can.
As a homeowner, it is important that your first step is to get in touch with your insurance company or agent and file a claim. Don't wait as many others in your area will most likely have claims as well so the faster you can get in touch with someone, the faster they can help you on next steps. Of course, you will not be able to figure everything out in the first discussion, but it is important that your insurance company knows you are filing a claim so they can get you started on their process of helping you get back on your feet. Also, make sure to clearly explain your claim and situation, where the damage is or if it is a total loss, and ask any questions. Some important things to ask: what should I do next, clarify any aspects of your policy you might be confused about, ask about additional living expenses if needed, understand important limits, exclusions, and deductibles, etc.
2. Document your damage through photos, videos, and lists
Too much evidence is better than not enough. Before cleaning everything up, make sure to take pictures and videos of all your personal and structural property that is damaged as soon as possible. You want to show your insurance company the full extent of the damage when the loss happened. Do not wait around to start documenting. The claims process may involve multiple people at different times so it is important that they understand what your house looked like as soon as it was damaged. Take pictures and videos of the soaking wet sofa, the fallen trees outside, the damaged roof, the destroyed dinner table, etc. Lists can also help you itemize all the damage property you may have. When speaking to a claims adjuster, they will want to see every item you are claiming so having a list with evidence from photos and videos will help you and the adjuster streamline everything you need covered.
3. Prevent your property from further damage
As a homeowner, many are surprised to find out, but it is your job to make sure that your property does not become further damaged. For example, if there is a hole in your ceiling, you are responsible for putting a temporary tarp on it to stop the water from getting inside. Check to see if your carrier will cover temporary repairs and if not, make sure to keep your receipts. If you do not prevent further damage after your loss, it may become difficult to get your full claim settled. Avoid any permanent repairs until your insurance company says it is okay for you to do so as well.
4. Save all receipts and document conversations
After the storm, it is extremely important that you keep track of all receipts. Whether staying in a hotel or buying food, some of these expenses might be reimbursable. Additionally, make sure to record all of your communications, emails, and written notices/documents all in one central place. This will be helpful if your insurer requests anything from you later on or you end up working with another claims adjuster. If your carrier requests anything specific, it's good to be prepared and have the ability to respond quickly with proof.
5. Be there while the claims adjuster is surveying your property
As the adjuster is probably visiting many houses everyday, they might not be as careful about documenting all the damage as you. It is important that you are there with them to point out any areas they might have missed. Additionally, they may need to visit your house multiple times, so keeping track of what the adjuster needs to a take a look at next will help move the process along.
Overall, it is extremely important to stay in communication with your insurance company throughout this entire process. At times, it may feel difficult and tedious but using these steps above will hopefully help you streamline the claims process and get you back on your feet faster.
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