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What Insureds Need to Know About Insurance and Hurricanes

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Here are the top five things policyholders need to understand about insurance and hurricanes:

  1. Hurricanedeductibles: Most homeowners’ insurance policies contain specific provisions related to damage caused by hurricanes, and a key feature is often higher deductibles for losses resulting from a hurricane. Under this provision, homeowners are responsible for paying a percentage of the insured value of the home, generally ranging from 2-10 percent. So for a home insured for $100,000 with a 2-percent hurricane deductible, the policyholder would be responsible to pay out of pocket for the first $2,000 in damages.
  2. Wind-driven rain: Damage caused by wind-driven rain – for example, rain blown through poorly sealed door/window openings—is not covered in most instances. While damage caused by wind itself is likely covered (subject to the hurricane deductible), water damage caused by rain seeping into the home through doors/windows generally is not.
  3. Repair scams: Homeowners should resist the temptation to sign up with the first repair crew that shows up at their door, and especially should not sign paperwork that assigns the rights and benefits of their insurance policy to someone else. Assignment of benefits scams are a leading cause of rising insurance rates, and fraud artists see a hurricane aftermath as a golden opportunity to prey on unsuspecting homeowners. Insurance policyholders should always call their agent or their insurance company first, to report a loss and determine the best way to proceed.
  4. Flood damage: Damage caused by flooding, common in a hurricane, is not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. A separate flood insurance policy is required for this type of loss.
  5. Mitigate and document: Homeowners are expected to mitigate damage to their home to the extent they safely can, and to document their damage. So, putting a tarp over a damaged roof or boarding up a broken window can prevent further losses. Homeowners should document damage by taking photographs and save receipts for any out-of-pocket costs.

Hurricanes, Insurance, and You Print this page

Many Floridians know what to do when a hurricane threatens and have developed a plan. But for far too few, insurance is not a part of that plan. Just as you have a family plan, so too should you have an insurance plan. This guide will help you plan for insurance before a storm and understand the claims process after a storm. (This information is available in a brochure that can be imprinted with agency contact information. Learn more.)

Before a hurricane… 

  • Meet with your agent well before a storm threatens to make sure you have adequate insurance coverage.
  • Compile a thorough and detailed inventory of the contents of your home and their value. Include high quality digital photos and even video for documentation purposes. Depending on the severity of a storm, you may not be able to enter your home, and looting could become an issue. Whether your loss is from a storm or theft, having a list to support your claim helps avoid disputes and ensures the settlement is fair. Lists and smart–phone applications for compiling an inventory are readily available. Ask your agent for assistance.

After a hurricane…  

  • Contact your independent insurance agent as quickly as possible to report your losses. He or she will assign the loss immediately to a qualified adjuster, who will call you as soon as possible. It takes time to process a large number of claims after a disaster, so please be patient. If yours is a serious case, tell your agent. Insurance companies schedule adjusters; the most serious losses receive priority treatment.
  • Assess your situation and put safety first. Don’t proceed until you are sure a room or house is safe to enter. If you must relocate temporarily, give your agent your temporary address.
  • Once your safety is secured, make any repairs necessary to prevent further property damage. These might include covering breaks in roofs, walls, or windows with plywood, canvas, or other waterproof material. Do not have permanent repairs made without first consulting your agent or meeting with the adjuster; unauthorized repairs may not be reimbursed.
  • Keep all receipts for expenditures you’ve made to temporarily repair damage or to estimate the extent of damage.

Make a list and get estimates 

  • Use your pre-disaster home inventory to help prepare a detailed accounting of all damaged or destroyed personal property for the adjuster. (Be sure to keep a copy.) Your list should be as complete as possible and include descriptions (with quantities) of items damaged or destroyed, date of purchase or approximate age, cost at time of purchase, and estimated replacement cost.
  • Collect cancelled checks, invoices, appraisals, or other papers that might assist the adjuster in determining the value of the destroyed property.
  • Secure a detailed estimate for permanent repairs from a reliable contractor and give it to the adjuster when he or she arrives. The estimate should be detailed and specific, and include the extent of the work and a breakdown of repair and replacement costs. Do not give the contractor the go-ahead to begin repairs until you have reviewed the damage with the adjuster.
  • Keep a written record of everyone you talk to about your insurance claim, including the date of the conversation and a summary of what was said.
  • Take photos or video of the damage to help with the presentation of your claim and assist the adjuster in his evaluation.
  • Even if home or business furnishings and other items look like “total losses,” do not get rid of them until after they have been examined by an adjuster.

Mitigate further damage 

  • Clean wooden furniture and floors to avoid further damage. Avoid rubbing in abrasives such as ash, plaster, or wallboard particles that might have fallen on the furniture. Don’t leave wood furniture in the sun or it will warp. Scrub woodwork and floors with a stiff brush.
  • Draperies, linens, and clothing should be laundered. Upholstered furniture should be examined. You may be able to mitigate further damage by cleaning and drying it; if you plan to have this done by an upholsterer or dry cleaner, talk to your agent first to determine if this can or should be done before or after the adjuster arrives.
  • Metal objects, such as guns, drapery rods, and electric motors in home appliances, should be dried and rubbed, or sprayed with oil to prevent corrosion. Radios, TVs, and other electronic systems should also be dried out, but not oiled.
  • If your car has been damaged or submerged in a flood, move it to high ground and let it dry out. Do not attempt to start or operate it until it is thoroughly dry.