Residential Tornado Damage Insurance Claims
Homeowners Face Many Challenges After a Storm
When facing the effects of a tornado’s aftermath, figuring out what to do first can be overwhelming. After realizing that your home or property has incurred storm damage, the first course of action is to contact your insurance company. Do so as promptly as possible as this is a condition for them to provide you with coverage. However, do not assume that, just because you’ve paid your premiums on time, the insurance company is going to provide a complete, timely and reasonable assessment of the amount of damage that your home actually suffered and open up their bank vaults to indemnify you for your loss. Although many people may appear to have the homeowner’s best interests in mind, it can be difficult to know for certain.
How Insurance Companies Work When Disaster Strikes
There are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with storm damage adjustment claims. First and foremost, understand that many insurance companies’ main goal is to settle claims with the least amount of expense possible. Decreasing claims expenses is one way of generating more profits that are then paid out in greater dividends to shareholders. Not all insurance carriers operate this way, and not every adjuster is trying to figure out how they can withhold from you the money that you rightfully need to restore your home. The one thing all insurance companies and adjusters will do is put together an estimate of what they believe it will cost to restore your home to its pre-disaster disaster. Then, and only then, will you have the chance to evaluate the thoroughness of their estimate and determine what their true intentions are. Our experience has shown that only about one-third (30%) of those estimates are sufficient, meaning that two-thirds (70%) of them are not. Let the adjuster do his job and provide his estimate before you get a second opinion about its thoroughness. We would be happy to give you that second opinion at no cost or obligation to you.
Expect that the adjuster assigned to your claim will also give you a cash advance to help you get back on your feet. It’s common practice to give a cash advance to a person who files a claim, usually in the amount of a couple of thousand dollars, which can be quite helpful after your belongings have been blown into the next county. Although they are not required to provide a cash advance, we commend them for doing so, but be careful not to let it buy your loyalty and your objectivity. At the end of the day, it was money you were going to get anyway, you just received some of it sooner rather than later.
What to Avoid
Making rash decisions immediately following a storm is never a good idea. Your insurance policy requires you to allow for the inspection of all damaged items. Avoid the urge to throw away anything that is totaled by a fire, tornado, etc. Additionally, do not begin any home repairs until the entire amount of loss has been thoroughly assessed by a professional public claims adjuster. The adjuster assigned to your claim by your insurance company is going to have an estimate done on what it will cost to repair your home. It may take a couple of weeks but allow them to do so before hiring a general contractor or beginning repairs yourself.
Choosing the Right Repair Contractor
Choosing the right repair contractor is critical: it would be our advice to never use one that is introduced to you by your insurance company. Many insurance companies are known for their close relationship with their preferred contractors. So much so, that a rational person would suspect that the contractor must be “preferred” for a reason; and they are. The contractors almost always support the adjuster’s conclusions about the scope of the damage. So what can you do? Read online reviews; check Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau for information about anyone you are interested in working with; consult with friends and neighbors; ask questions to gather much-needed information so you can make an educated decision.
Benefits of Considering a Public Adjuster
Utilizing the vast knowledge and expertise of a highly-skilled professional public adjuster not only benefits you, the homeowner, but it also keeps the insurance companies honest by reinforcing proper checks and balances in the industry. Well-run companies and nonprofit organizations have audits done of their “books” every year, not because they believe that everyone who works for them is a crook or thief, but rather because it’s good business practice and keeps everyone accountable. A public claims adjuster levels the playing field because he or she has the knowledge and skills to wade through the long list of detailed information that the insurance company needs to begin the claims process, and they can ensure you’re treated in an even-handed manner. Furthermore, because the details of most insurance policies are fairly complex in today’s insurance market, you can greatly benefit from having a seasoned public adjuster who is trained in reading and understanding homeowners policies and can identify all the benefits you are entitled to so that you get everything paid for by your premiums.
One final suggestion: since your insurance company’s adjuster is going to provide you with an estimate on the structural damages to your home (remember, there is a 30% chance that it will be a sufficient estimate), then you don’t need to be hiring a public adjuster and paying them a percentage of what you are going to be offered. It would be unwise to hire anyone to assist you with the structural portion of your claim until you’ve got a free second opinion from a claims expert (like us) who can tell you if you’ve been given a deficient estimate. Then, and only then, will you know you need to hire someone to assist on that part of your claim.