8 of the 10 most destructive natural disasters in U.S history were hurricanes, and there's a good possibility that Hurricane Ian will be added to this list. But how do you start filing a claim after a natural disaster and your home has been damaged by a hurricane. How do you get the money that you are entitled to from your insurance company? And what do you do if you need additional assistance?
1. Flooding is Not Covered by Homeowners Insurance
When it comes to filing a claim for hurricane disaster relief, it's important to understand that while your homeowners insurance covers damage to your home from wind, wind-driven rain, and water through windows, doors, or holes in walls. Your homeowners insurance does not cover damage caused by flooding or water rising from the bottom--e.g., storm surge or overflowing a body water.
Flooding caused a lot of damage in Florida by the after affects of Hurricane Ian. But flooding damage coverage is only available if you have flood insurance with companies like the National Flood Insurance Program, or a private flood insurance company like Richard Dean Insurance. Early reports suggest that only a few of the many inland homes that were damaged by Ian have this coverage. Even if you don't have flood insurance it is worth contacting us directly to find out if some of your expenses, such as wind damage to the roof or additional living expenses, will be covered. Federal Emergency Management Agency's Wind Damage vs. Flood Damage fact sheet.
2. Auto Insurance Covers Flooding
Flooding would be covered if your car insurance includes comprehensive coverage. This type of auto insurance protects against any type of damage that is not caused by an accident. The car insurance company may pay for the vehicle's value, less the deductible, if the water damage is severe.
Be careful buying a used vehicle in the months after a major hurricane, as flood-damaged vehicles are often on the market. Cars with water damage can pose serious safety hazards, including faulty airbags and compromised electrical systems.
3. Get in Touch with Your Insurer to Start Documenting your Claim Right Away
When it comes to seeking out hurricane disaster relief, the temporary repairs are usually required to be covered by insurance companies. This is to prevent further damage from the property. Before you do any temporary repairs, take photos.
To document your damages, you can use the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' apps. Be sure to keep receipts for any supplies that you purchased to repair the damages. Your insurer may be required to reimburse you.
4. For Hurricane Damage, Your Deductible May be higher
Although wind-driven rain and wind damage are covered under a homeowners policy, some policies charge separate wind deductibles. This means that when seeking hurricane disaster relief you will likely have higher out-of-pocket costs. Most deductibles are based on a percentage of your coverage (roughly 5%-10%) rather than a flat dollar amount.
This can add up quickly. Consider this: Your home is insured for $500,000, with a 5% wind deductible. You have $30,000 of siding and roof damage due to high winds. Your insurance covers only $5,000, so you are responsible for $25,000 of the damage.
5. Check to See if You are Eligible for Other Assistance
Many states have emergency management agencies that can provide information hurricane disaster relief resources for helping after a disaster like Hurricane Ian. These resources include financial and medical assistance, emergency housing, and financial assistance from various government agencies.
Start by typing your address in the tool at DisasterAssistance.gov to find out about aid in your area, including money for living expenses and resources for rebuilding. FEMA hurricane disaster relief programs and disaster recovery centers can also provide assistance in person. You can find the nearest recovery center locator on the FEMA App.
You might also be eligible for SBA Disaster Loan Assistance, which is a low-interest loan for homeowners or renters to replace or repair damaged property. You don't have to be a company to qualify for the U.S. Small Business Administration loan. You can also utilize hurricane disaster relief resources through the links to state emergency management agencies.
6. Learn the Rules for Fallen Trees
Even if the hurricane did not cause damage to your home, there may be some property damage due to fallen trees. Your tree may cause damage to neighbor's property, such as a damaged garage or fence.
In this case, your neighbor should file a claim and seek out hurricane disaster relief with his or her insurance company. This will usually cover the cost of repairs. Insurance policies typically cover $500-$1000 for tree damage, but sometimes they pay nothing.
7. Your Insurer May Pay for Living Expenses while You're Away from Your Home
Many homeowners insurance policies cover additional living expenses, including rent and food, for up to one year while you are unable to live in the home - or up to a percentage of your total coverage. This could be the first money your insurance company gives you before it decides how much you will need to rebuild your house.
If you are away from your home for a long time while you wait for your house rebuilt, these living expenses can add up quickly. For reimbursement for hurricane disaster relief, be sure to keep the receipts. These expenses are covered by some insurers.
8. Credit for All Your Possessions
You'll be able to file your hurricane disaster relief claims much faster if you have a home inventory that lists all your possessions. You may still be able to gather information that will help you file your claim. Photos of damaged items in your home are helpful evidence for the insurer.
You should also look for receipts for valuable items. Also, take photos after the hurricane and before you remove debris to ensure that you have documentation that your items were damaged by the storm.
9. The State Insurance Department Can Help you Throughout the Process
The state insurance department is an available resource to assist you in filing your hurricane disaster relief claim. It can also help you if you have difficulty contacting your insurer or getting paid out.
Many insurance departments have special mediation programs that can help residents resolve disputes with their insurance companies following a major catastrophe. You can find contact information for your state at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' Insurance Department and utilize that list for your hurricane disaster relief needs.