Hurricane Isaac and its wet, windy remnants sent homeowners
from the Gulf of Mexico to the Ohio River Valley to file cabinets
to check their insurance policies.
What type of coverage do they have? Covered for floods? Once
they suffer damage, exactly how do they file a claim and get
"There are many steps you can take to speed up the claims
process," said Amy Danise, editorial director for Insure.com, a
consumer information site. "Some steps will also help you collect
If you've just suffered a loss to your home, car, boat or
other property at the hands of Isaac or any other event,
following these steps should help you cope with your stress as
well as grease your insurance claim.
Document your loss.
Take pictures of your damaged property. If you have pictures from
before the storm, provide the before-and-after comparison to your
insurer's adjuster. These will prove your loss as well as its
extent. Photography can take less than 30 minutes.
Manage the repair process.
Make repairs that will prevent further damage. But don't start
your cleanup or make finished repairs without documenting the
damage first. "If the insurer can't see how much damage occurred,
you may not get the full value of what you're entitled to,"
List your damages.
List each damaged item, including a description, original cost,
time and place of purchase or construction and estimated
Get repair estimates.
Get at least two. Don't rely on your insurance company adjuster's
This applies to repairs and cleanup as well as to original
purchases and construction.
Consider retaining a public adjuster.
This type of adjuster works for policyholders rather than
insurers. He knows the rules used to calculate payoffs on
"There can be a lot of paperwork, things to keep track of,"
said Ron Reitz, president of the National Association of Public
Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA). "He can be your advocate at a time
when you feel vulnerable."
A public adjuster likely knows more than you do about which
property you can include in a claim. If you have home damage, for
instance, he may point out adjacent rooms or spaces behind walls
or beneath floors that can be included in a claim.
You can find an adjuster online or via a state licensing board
or the NAPIA. Always ask an adjuster how he would be paid, how he
would help you and for references.
An adjuster should not guarantee in advance how much he can
help in financial terms, Reitz says. But your goal is to improve
your claim by more than the adjuster will cost, Danise says.
What about future natural disasters? There are also steps you
can take to speed up processing of any future insurance claim and
to boost your odds of collecting the most to which you're
entitled. Here are four key steps:
Photograph your property, room by room, and make digital
copies of receipts and other documentation. Keep one set handy,
and store a set off site. Focus on big-ticket items.
Shop for an adjuster. Doing this before an emergency gives
you more time to do a thorough search. Adjusters often charge a
percent of your claim.
Keep a copy of insurance papers where you can grab them
quickly if you must evacuate your home.
Ask your insurance agent whether your homeowner's policy
covers replacement cost. If it covers just actual cash value,
which is basically just depreciated value, ask how much an
upgrade would cost you.