Storm damage claims can save in the long run


Top 10 loss states according the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Even though summer has come and gone, damaging storms can still pop up. Knowing in advance how deal with your insurance company can lessen the headaches if you need to file a homeowners insurance claim. 

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Minnesota was in the top 10 states for hail loss claims between 2013 and 2015.

Bill Burns of Insurance by Burns said while homeowners insurance policies are pretty much the same, the differences can be seen in the deductibles, which are a specified amount of money the insured must pay before an insurance company will pay a claim.

Deductibles have gone up in recent years as a way to lower the cost of insurance premiums.

Policies are designed for catastrophes, not for maintenance. “So if your gutter rips off one corner of your home, it might be more advantageous for you to just go up and fix it and be done with it,” said Burns, president of the Oakdale Area Chamber of Commerce.

In Minnesota, a homeowners insurance policy cannot be canceled due to a claim involving “acts of god.” This includes wind, hail and storm damage.

So if you can have a damage claim every year because of wind and hail, the insurance company cannot cancel your policy.

Burns said the downfall with annual storm damage comes when a policyholder wants to switch insurance companies or simply shop around for a different company. There’s always the chance other insurance carriers won’t accept the homeowner as a client because his or her dwelling has had multiple claims in recent years and is viewed as a bad risk.

Wind and hail are the most common causes for storm damage, Burns said.

He added that with his policyholders, the most common question is whether there is damage or not. He explained this should be a “black-and-white” issue. 

This is when you want your adjuster to come out with a licensed and bonded contractor to inspect for possible damage.

The first thing homeowners should do if they have storm damage is protect their property. This includes covering any holes that could have been caused. 

They should also contact their insurance agent or company right away.

Taking photos of damage themselves is a good idea, even when their adjuster is also snapping photos. Burns said it also helpful to search for any news stories of storms hitting their area. This helps provide more proof, if ever required. 

Burns said it is also a good idea to get more than one estimate on what it will take to fix the damages.

When examining your home after a storm, check everything including the roof, windows, siding, air conditioning units, screens and all exterior units. Also check your car, if it was outside during a hailstorm. 

Signs of storm damage on your roof can range from holes to split seams to missing singles. When looking at the exterior of a home, check for cracking, chipping or dings and dents on the siding. Holes in stucco, or damaged brick and tuck-pointing are also signs of weather-related damage.

Fallen trees and limbs cause more than $1 billion in damage every year, according to the National Storm Damage Center. Generally, property owners are responsible for removing trees and limbs that have fallen on their property, even if it’s a neighbor’s tree. Check with your insurance agent to see if your policy helps cover the cost of removal and repairs.

Your insurance company is the one with the checkbook, but as a policyholder, you have a lot of rights. 

“But it’s been my experience that almost all the adjusters I’ve worked with the insurance companies, really do want to do the job right. They’re not looking for any short cuts,” Burns said.

The adjusters want to make sure your house is repaired properly. A lot of times, your insurance agent will have a list of contactors they have worked with before and done satisfactory work.

Often after severe storms, there are “storm chasers” who will come around offering to check for storm damage. Don’t assume these storm chasers estimates of damage are accurate. However, if your adjuster says there isn’t any storm damage but the chaser says there is, you have the right for your adjuster to come back out with a licensed and bonded contractor to take a second look.

 

 

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