Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller Thursday offered advice to help consumers stay prepared as temperatures rise and severe destructive storms become more frequent.
"Strong and damaging storms can appear at random during the summer months," said Commissioner Miller. "While you can't always control a storm's impact on your property, you can take steps to protect yourself and be prepared to act quickly if damage occurs."
Commissioner Miller recently issued a consumer alert outlining the steps a consumer can take to get ahead of potential storm damage and ease the recovery process, should it be necessary. Consumers are strongly encouraged to follow these steps and take time to plan ahead before the summer's severe weather becomes more frequent.
Homeowners should review their insurance policies so they know what is or isn't covered if damage occurs during a storm. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) advises homeowners to insure their property at replacement value rather than actual cash value, which may not be enough to cover extensive repairs or a full replacement.
Consumers should maintain an inventory of personal property, especially valuables, so information is ready if they need to be involved in a claim. Make note of brand name, price paid, date of purchase, make and model, and serial numbers whenever possible.
Photos of items before damage can also help the insurance company access your claim, and always be aware of limits in your policy that could impact claims on expensive items. If necessary, additional coverage can be purchased for those items.
Commissioner Miller also reminded consumers that flood damage is not covered by a typical homeowners insurance policy.
Flood insurance may be obtained through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or through a private broker.
More information on flood insurance can be found on the Insurance Department's website.
If you rent your house or apartment, you should contact an insurance agent about renters insurance. As a tenant, your landlord's homeowners insurance will not cover your personal belongings, so it is important that you purchase a policy to protect your personal belongings from any damage that may occur. Make sure to maintain an inventory of what is covered by the renters insurance policy.
If damage does occur, contact your insurance company immediately to report your loss and begin the claims process. Make sure to document damage or loss with photographs or video before beginning to clean up.
If your car is damaged by hail or debris from the storm, make sure to report this to your auto insurance company. Damage by nature is typically covered under a comprehensive coverage policy.
"Documenting any storm damage to your home or property is extremely important," said Commissioner Miller. "This can help you provide the most detailed and accurate representation of the storm's impact to your insurance company and will assist in the claims process."
Claims should be filed with your insurance company as soon as possible as your insurance company may have a time limit for when you need to file a claim. Be sure to take steps to prevent further damage to your home and property by making any necessary temporary repairs if the home is still safe to inhabit. Your insurance company typically reimburses these costs as part of your claim.
Commissioner Miller also reminded consumers to be cautious when selecting a contractor to complete repairs. Request licensing information and references, and you should get important information like estimates in writing before allowing work to begin. Do not sign with a contractor before the insurance company's claims adjuster has examined the property.For more information on homeowners insurance and severe weather preparation, visit the Department of Insurance Severe Weather webpage or call 1-877-881-6388.