Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Insurance & you: A love hate relationship.

As part of preparedness month I thought I would start off with something that should be first on the list for owners and renters alike--insurance. I know insurance can be convoluted and the legalese is enough to make your head spin, but this is your first and oftentimes best line of defense to ensure (get it?) that you're protected when something happens.

Before going further you need to click the link above and read the story, you'll be outraged but know situations like the one Mr. Crea faced happen more often than you think...

Ok, so now I need you set aside the anger you're feeling and know that you can avoid ending up in a similar situation by following some simple steps:

Review your policy. Don't have one? Well this is a great time to do some research on the types of events your community is prone to and to talk to an insurance agent. If you already have a policy, read it through, how much coverage do you have? What's covered, what isn't? Confused by something? Call your agent--be a pain, but don't stop until you understand what you're paying for. Insurance should give you piece of mind, not keep you up at night because you're unsure of what's covered and what isn't.

Resources to help get you started:
  • (lots of useful and easy to understand info)
  • (a beginner's guide)
  • [insert your insurance agent's phone number here]
Ok, so you're feeling good, you understand your policy, you and your insurance agent your buddies, so what do you do when something happens? 

Contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Because you've kept all of your important documents in a secure place, referring to them will be a breeze when talking to your agent, a claims adjuster, or whomever is taking down your information. They are going to ask you questions about the damage, the losses, etc... you can help this process along by...

Compiling a list of everything that's been damaged. A good idea is to keep a disposable camera in your preparedness kit so that you can catalogue the damage to your personal property for insurance purposes, the ideal is to capture everything on video if possible. The urge to start cleaning up will be great, but resist; don't begin cleaning until everything has been captured on film and you have an inventory of the damaged items, and most importantly an adjuster has gone over it with you. This will ensure that you get as much as possible in the long run. However, if you have questions about whether you need to wait for an adjuster before beginning cleanup, ask your insurance company. 

Make sure your adjuster can contact you. There is a lot of uncertainty following an event, if you have to make a temporary move, make sure your insurance company knows how to get a hold of you.

Have broken windows? Is your roof leaking? Make any temporary repairs that will prevent further damage to your home, and keep the receipts. Now is not the time for permanent repairs, you just want to keep further damage from taking place. You need to wait for your insurance to weigh in on what's covered and what's not before permanent repairs can begin.

Which brings me to the most important step: Breathe. This is not going to be a quick process, be prepared to spend a lot of time on the phone and revert to step 1. The more you know about your policy, the better you can be at advocating on your behalf...knowledge is power.

Optional Step
If you feel like you didn't get a fair shake by your insurance company, you have the option of hiring a public adjuster, but beware they come with fees and whole set of issues that may impact just how much money you have to repair / rebuild when all is said and done. If you're interested in learning more, this provides a good overview

So the dust has finally settled and you have your check in hand, Let the permanent repairs begin! Can you see that glimmer? That's light my friend...but before you go hiring the first contractor that offers you their services, remember fraud sucks (while not a step, it's important to reinforce that). Follow these tips for finding a reputable contractor and make sure you sign a contract that works for you and not just your contractor.

So there you go...a little primer on insurance and disasters. Please do not use this as an authoritative guide to the steps you should follow...this is designed to get you thinking about the subject and I encourage you to read up on what policy works best for you. 


  1. I've also heard that if you have any questions about what your policy does and does not cover, you should have have email conversations that can be/are recorded. Not only can this help misunderstandings of loopholes etc., it helps people to understand what legalese means. For instance, many people post Sandy were amazed to find that no contents were covered under their policy. That information was likely in the paperwork, but incomprehensible to the average person. However, asking your agent, in writing, "Are my contents covered?" will likely result in a more direct answer.

  2. That is a good point, and you also mentioned another great benefit of getting things in writing is because you have something to go back to when things get confusing in the wake of a disaster.