You may know how to prepare for tornadoes but do you know how to prepare for tornado-related insurance claims?
April showers bring May tornadoes? Tornado season has arrived. According to 2014 statistics from NOAA’s National Weather Service there were 20 tornadoes in March, 129 in April and 130 in May.
For most families, having a plan to get to safety is the main priority during this dangerous season and with good reason as many of these storms also end in tragedy. But once your family has created an evacuation plan (Ready.gov has excellent tools to help with this), and prepared for all of the safety and health issues that may arise, then it’s time to start thinking about protecting your property.
Tornadoes can be extremely costly as far as insurance claims go. “In 2013 insured losses from U.S. tornadoes/thunderstorms totaled $10.3 billion, down from $15 billion in 2012,” according to the Insurance Information Institute. How can homeowners ensure that they will be covered if a tornado touches down? And what should do if their property is damaged?
“Strong heavy winds and tornadoes can cause considerable damage even to the most well-constructed buildings. The fact is that many structures will not survive this type of storm and the owners will need to repair or rebuild what is left,” said Carl Gross, Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and Shareholder of Globe Midwest/Adjusters International, which is based in Southfield, Michigan.
Gross notes that the time immediately following extreme property damage is always very stressful for families so he advises them to do as much pre-event preparation as possible including the following:
- Take photos of each room in your house and upload them to a cloud server that won’t be damaged in the event of extreme weather
- Make sure that you have copies of your insurance policies scanned and saved online or paper copies stored in water and fireproof containers
- Check with your insurance agent to confirm that your policy includes tornado coverage and that you fully understand any exclusions for flooding, water damage, etc.
- Have enough money saved to cover your deductible and other emergency expenses that may arise such as hotel rooms, dining and travel (many of which may be reimbursed later by your insurance carrier)
After a property loss occurs, homeowners will need to work through a complicated insurance claims process in order to get their properties repaired or rebuilt. Bruce Kabat, Chief Operating Officer of Adjusters International Colorado, says that due to the multiple causes of property damage involved with tornadoes – for example, high winds, hail and flooding almost always accompany these storms – filing claims can be incredibly challenging for most policyholders to handle on their own. Hiring an expert to guide them through the process can make the process much more manageable.
“Public adjusters are insurance experts who are trained in how to spot and document not just the obvious damage from the winds, but the more subtle damage caused by hail, to fully validate the true extent of your loss. From the initial appraisal to the final negotiations, our adjusters will manage the entire claims process, to help you secure a full and fair settlement,” said Kabat.
Kabat also offers the following tips to homeowners whose property is damaged by tornadoes:
- Heed all safety warnings by your local law enforcement officials as safety should always be your first priority
- Call your insurance carrier right away to begin the claims process since they will likely be inundated with calls immediately after the storm
- Save all receipts for expenses related to the weather event as these may be reimbursable under your policy
- Take pictures of all damaged property if it is safe to do so
- Understand your duty per the policy to protect your property from further damage -- this could include tarping portions of your structure, and moving personal property away from the loss site to a secure location
- Hire a public adjuster at the beginning of the process in order to make it as easy on you as possible
“We always hope that tornadoes will not affect our family members, friends and neighbors but unfortunately, these violent storms can be very unpredictable and destructive,” said Gross. “Our experts are here to guide you through your tornado insurance claim so please don’t feel that you need to take this on alone.”