Tips from insurance experts if storms damage your home

It's critical you take the proper steps after a storm because depending on what you do right now, you could either have all your damage covered or you could be out a lot of money.

After a storm blows through and causes damage to your property, contact your insurance company immediately so it sends an adjuster to your home then begin documenting and mitigating damage.

"Take pictures and keep receipts if you're making temporary repairs. If you have to move out, keep receipts from that," said Samuel Marshall, president and CEO of Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania.

If your neighbor's tree falls on your property and causes damage, you should file a claim with your insurance company.

"Your insurance company will pick it up and then maybe go after the other, your neighbor's insurance policy," said Marshall.

Do be vigilant when dealing with your insurance adjuster.

"Walk around with the adjuster. Don't leave the adjuster by themselves. Be there when they're going through and point things out that they might be aware of," said Tobie Stanger of Consumer Reports.

And before letting the adjuster into your home, verify her or his identity. Also, document all communication in case there's a dispute later.

"Because if things come up in the future, you want to be able to say, well he told me this and now you're telling me this and so forth and so on," said Stanger.

Also, get additional estimates by an appropriate contractor, if necessary. Don't accept lower quality replacements or work.

And when hiring someone to do repairs, beware of fly by night or shoddy contractors.

"Don't sign anything in haste. Don't make any commitments in haste," said Marshall.

Do ask to see a contractor's license and certificate of insurance and make sure they are valid.

Some of you with big insurance claims might want to consider using an independent, third-party public adjuster but also be careful and do your homework.

Storm Tips from AAA

AAA Tips on Auto Insurance Coverage

-Physical damage to a car caused by heavy wind, flooding, or fallen tree limbs is covered under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto policy.

-Comprehensive coverage (optional) covers the vehicle from damage that from anything other than another vehicle - like physical damage from fallen trees or high wind

-Liability only (no comprehensive or collision coverage) means you are liable for damage to your vehicle (even floods).

-Car owners should contact their insurance company to determine the extent of coverage before seeking repairs.

AAA Tips on Auto Insurance Claims

-Take photographs of any visible damage.

-Any vehicle sustaining flood damage should be fully inspected before being allowed back on the road. Mechanical components, computer systems, engine, transmission, axles, brake system and fuel system impacted by water contamination may render the vehicle unfit to drive and in many cases vehicles sustaining significant water damage will be determined to be a total loss.

AAA Tips on Home Insurance Coverage

-If your tree falls on your house, your insurance will cover removal of the tree and home repairs due to damage.

-If your tree falls on your neighbor's house your neighbor's homeowner's policy would provide insurance coverage. The same holds true if your neighbor's tree falls on your home; you would file a claim with your own insurance company.

-If a tree falls in your yard but doesn't hit anything, you would pay for its removal in most cases.

Additionally, if a tree on your property is weak, damaged, or decayed, but you do nothing about it, and it crashes down on a neighbor's home (or vehicle), you could be held liable for damages.

Wind-related damage to a house, its roof, its contents and other insured structures on the property is covered under standard homeowner's insurance policies. Wind-driven rain that causes an opening in the roof or wall and enters through this opening is also covered.

Wind-driven rain that causes an opening in the roof or wall and enters through this opening is covered under standard homeowner's insurance policies.

Water that seeps into a home from the ground up is considered flooding and would be covered by flood insurance, which is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program and a few private insurers. Flood insurance is available to both homeowners and renters. Flood damage is not covered by standard homeowners or renters insurance policies.

Homeowners policies also include additional living expenses in the event a home is severely damaged by an insured disaster, this would pay for reasonable expenses incurred by living elsewhere while the home is being fixed or rebuilt.

AAA Tips on Homeowners Insurance Claims:

-Take appropriate immediate and temporary measures to prevent further damage. If you do make minor repairs before an insurance adjuster arrives, save receipts to submit for reimbursement.

-Phone your insurance agent or company immediately. Be prepared with a list of questions ahead of time: Am I covered? Does my claim exceed my deductible? How long will it take to process my claim? Will I need to obtain estimates for repairs to structural damage?

- If your home is damaged to the extent you cannot live there, find out if you have coverage for additional living expenses for accommodations while repairs are completed. If you do stay at a hotel, keep your receipts for reimbursement.

-Schedule a time for an adjuster to inspect the damage to your property.

-Prepare a list of lost or damaged articles. Avoid throwing out damaged items until the adjuster has visited. Consider photographing or videotaping the damage.

-Get claim forms. Insurance companies will send required claim forms by a specified time period. Be sure to completely fill out the form and return promptly to avoid delays.
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