Guide To Filing a Weather Related Insurance Claim

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Severe weather may cause you to need some help from your insurance company. If your home, car, business and health are affected by a storm, you will need to file a claim to be reimbursed for damages, losses or injuries.

Over the past few years, most states have seen an increase in weather related events, which includes wildfires, like those seen in Maui. Flood events have increased around the country as well. In 2021, there were $92 billion in insured losses. In 2022, there were 165 billion U.S. dollars worth of losses.[1]

It’s important to have the right types of insurance if you own a car, a home or a business. Here’s everything you need to know about filing an insurance claim after a severe weather event, according to each insurance type.

Key Takeaways

  • Your homeowners insurance may cover weather-related losses, but only flood insurance will cover the cost of damages due to a flood.
  • Comprehensive coverage is the only type of car insurance that will pay for damages to a car in the event of a severe storm.
  • Business insurance will cover weather related losses unless the damages are caused by a flood, which is only covered by flood insurance.
  • In the event of a weather-related health emergency, most insurance plans will cover a claim, even if it’s with a provider that is outside your insurance plan’s network.

Home insurance claims can affect your insurance premiums, so only file a claim if:

  • Your home's repairs or replacement costs exceed your home insurance deductible.
  • An unexpected incident causes significant damages or losses that make your home uninhabitable.
  • You're making your first claim within three years because it's difficult for you to pay for repairs on your own.

Take notes of all meetings and calls with insurers and contractors once you begin the claims process below.

Contact a public adjuster or hire an attorney to assist you if you do not agree with the insurance settlement amount.

Also note that flood insurance is the only type of coverage that will pay for flood-related home damages. Homeowners insurance will not cover you in the case of a flood, unless it was caused by a sudden bursting of pipes.

How To File a Homeowners Insurance Claim

  • Step One: After a storm, take high-quality photos or video of the damages to the home, its structure and your belongings. Hopefully you can cross-reference the damaged property against an existing inventory with price estimates. Describe each item and include the make, model and serial numbers of appliances and possessions. Include receipts (or the approximate purchase date and location). If you are missing some receipts, include an estimated value for each item.
  • Step Two: If your home is uninhabitable, document additional living expenses (including meals and hotel costs).
  • Step Three: Call your homeowners insurance company to notify them about your home's damages. Your insurer will schedule an insurance adjuster to visit your property. Additionally, complete any necessary claim forms to start the claims process.
  • Step Four: Make emergency repairs to prevent further damages to your home and to make it habitable. Once these repairs are complete, keep copies of all receipts for reimbursement from the insurance company.
  • Step Five: Contact your mortgage lender if your home insurance is bundled into escrow. Most mortgage lenders hold insurance settlements in escrow, then release the funds in installments to ensure the homeowner uses the money for home repairs.
  • Step Six: Have an independent contractor complete an assessment of your home's damages. You may need this information if your home insurance company is not willing to pay out the amount you need. Ask the contractor to be as detailed as possible in the report by including labor charges and including line-item costs. Keep a receipt for payments made to the contractor. You’ll need to do this in case the insurance adjuster low-ballis damage estimates. A dependable, independent contractor can accurately estimate your property's damages and is worth the out-of-pocket cost. If you can’t afford one, a public adjuster can also help you to navigate the claims process and get a better settlement.
  • Step Seven: When the claims adjuster visits your home, make sure you're present. In fact, prepare for the insurance adjuster's visit beforehand by gathering all evidence that supports your claim. Present all supporting documentation, including photographs, video and other evidence. This information will help the claims adjuster accurately determine the extent of damage without missing critical details.
  • Step Eight: Save all documentation in a safe place, in case you need it again to resolve any issues with your claim.
  • Step Nine: Track your claim in case there are required actions you must take. Your home insurer should finish the process promptly. Keep your claim number and adjuster's name handy for easy access.
  • Step 10: Contact a public adjuster to assist you if you do not agree with the settlement amount. These professionals can negotiate with your home insurer to get you more money. You can also hire an attorney if your insurer has refused to pay you a fair settlement. They may even work with you on a contingency basis.

Even weather-related car insurance claims can affect your insurance premiums, so only file a claim if:

  • You have comprehensive coverage on your auto policy.
  • Your car’s value is significantly more than the deductible you’re responsible to pay.
  • You're making your first claim within three years because it's difficult for you to pay for repairs on your own.

If you have comprehensive coverage on your auto policy, you should be covered if your car is damaged or totalled due to a weather-related incident.

How To File a Comprehensive Car Insurance Claim

  • Step One: Take pictures of the property damage. Get close-up shots of scratches, dents and other damages. Don’t forget pictures of the surrounding area, including the street names. These photos can provide background information about the damage and provide supporting evidence for your car insurance claim.
  • Step Two: Check your coverage limits and deductible. Your insurance company will only pay up to the limits but will only give you the car’s Blue Book value on the day the car was damaged or totalled. The deductible amount will be subtracted from the total payout. This is where you can decide if filing a claim and seeing a hike in premiums at renewal is worth your while.
  • Step Three: Contact your car insurance provider and file a claim by submitting documentation. You can start the claims process via phone, mobile app or online portal. Your insurer will list which documents they need to begin the claims process, including photos that you’ve taken of the car damage.
  • Step Four: Get an estimate from a repair shop. Your insurance company can give you a list of suggested repair shops but you can select the repair facility that will work on their vehicle. In some states, it is unlawful for insurance companies to require you to use a particular auto body shop. If the repair facility you select charges more than one in the insurer's recommended network, you will be responsible for paying the difference.
  • Step Five: Review your claim’s status via mobile app or online portal to make sure there isn’t more documentation or information needed from you.
  • Step Six: Accept or reject the settlement offer from the Insurance company. If the proposed payout is too low, you must demonstrate this with a valid estimate. Your insurance company may reimburse the difference or the insurance company may suggest a facility that will do the work at the price at their proposed settlement amount.
  • Step Seven: Pay for repairs. Your insurance provider might mail you a check or pay the repair shop directly If the repair shop later finds further damages, they will contact you or your insurance company and provide an updated estimate for repair and labor costs.

If your car insurer will not budge on the settlement amount, you may need to hire an attorney or pay the difference out-of-pocket.

Your business property may be destroyed as a result of severe weather. Your insurance company will need the following from you to process a business insurance claim:

  • Description of the incident, including the date, time and location
  • Documentation (photographs, videos and written records of the damage)
  • Estimate of damages

How To File a Business Insurance Claim

  • Step One: Take clear, well-lit pictures of the damages, including office equipment that was destroyed. Videos can be useful documentation as well. If temporary patches won’t allow your business to reopen, you may need to relocate your business operations while more extensive repairs are underway. Business interruption insurance will cover the relocation costs. It can even cover lost income if your operation is unable to function temporarily.
  • Step Two: Contact your insurance company to file a property damage claim. Provide a detailed description of the incident that caused the loss or damage, as well as the date, time and location of the event.
  • Step Three: Your claim will be assigned to an adjuster who will make a personal visit and guide you through the claims process, including confirming if the incident was a covered loss and how much your deductible will cost. During this step, you will need to provide some requested information and the photos and videos you took.:
  • Step Four: Get an estimate for repairing the damages and share your estimates with the insurance adjuster. Ideally, the two estimates should be very similar. If the adjuster low-balls the repair costs, use the estimate you received from the company you’re hoping to hire to do the fixes with to negotiate a higher settlement. The claims process can be lengthy depending on the complexity of the investigation. Ideally, your adjuster will be keeping you informed throughout the claims process, but if you have not heard back in several days, follow up to make sure the insurance company is not waiting for you to give them more information.
  • Step Five: After your insurance company offers you a settlement, you have the option to accept or deny the settlement amount using your initial estimates. If the insurance company will not agree to match that amount, you can hire an attorney.

The amount of time it takes to receive your payout will vary by insurance carrier and may be subject to state laws. For example, California law states that a business should acknowledge the claim within 15 days of notice and then either approve or deny the claim within 40 days. Information specific to your state can be obtained from your local insurance department.

In the event of injury due to catastrophic weather, you can seek emergency medical attention anywhere and still be covered by your health insurance policy, even if it means going to a provider that is not in your health plan’s network.

Bring your insurance card with you when going to the hospital or clinic.

An emergency visit is the only time you will be covered when going out of network if you have an HMO or EPO plan. It is also the only time it should be fully covered if you have a PPO.

Do not hesitate going to a hospital that is not contracted with your health provider.

Keep all receipts in case you need them in order to be reimbursed.

After a storm, take high-quality photos or video of the damages to your home, car or business for insurance purposes.

What is the most common natural disaster?

Floods are the most common natural disaster in the U.S. Comprehensive car insurance will cover the cost of car damages due to floods but homeowners and business owners will need a separate flood insurance policy to pay for their losses.

Are hurricanes covered by homeowners insurance?

Yes, hurricanes are covered by homeowners insurance but in states that are most at risk of experiencing hurricane damage, there is usually a separate windstorm deductible.

What happens if a tree falls on my home or on my car after a storm?

If a tree falls on your roof after a storm, you are covered by home insurance, whether it was your tree or a neighbor’s. If a tree damages your car in the storm, only comprehensive car insurance coverage will cover the cost of repairs, whether it was your tree or a neighbor’s.

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