Be Prepared for the 2018 Hurricane Season

A hurricane can be a traumatic experience. And if your property is damaged, it’s the beginning of another ordeal – the insurance claim process. Hurricane season lasts from June 1 through November 1, so we still have a way to go. The 2018 season is predicted to be average or above. We learned some valuable lessons from Winter Storm Riley that we can apply to a hurricane claim and here are a few tips to prepare yourself for a possible insurance claim.

Know your policy

The best thing you can do before a hurricane hits is to take a look at your policy to make sure you won’t have any surprises should you need to file a claim.

Hurricane claims can be complicated because there can be two causes of loss: windstorm and flooding. Windstorm will be covered by your homeowner’s policy. Flooding is covered by the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If you haven’t purchased flood insurance, you may not be covered for flood. Here’s a blog post we wrote about it.

To add to the complexity, some policies have a separate deductible for wind claims, which is higher than the regular deductible. You may not even know that you have a different windstorm deductible and you don’t want to find out after a loss. It’s either a set amount or may be a percentage of your dwelling coverage. For example, if your dwelling coverage is $400,000 and you have a 2% wind deductible, your total deductible will be $8,000. After Riley, we had several clients whose wind deductibles amounted to over $12,000! Sometimes the wind deductible can zero out your whole claim.

Take a look at your policy’s declaration page and find the deductible. If you have a separate windstorm deductible, it will be written somewhere nearby. Here’s another blog post about it.

Prepare for your physical safety

Aside from preparing for an insurance claim, be sure to prepare for your physical safety. Have a hurricane kit at the ready and know your evacuation route. Things happen really fast in a hurricane and you need to be ready at a moment’s notice.

A Guide to Smoke and Fire Damage and the Claim Process

Big or small, a fire in your home is pretty scary. And the damage fire can cause is scarier still. Contact your public adjuster as soon as possible, even while the fire is still burning. He or she can take a huge burden off your plate as you take care of your family.

Right after the fire, you’ll need to protect the property from further damage and secure it from trespassers. This is done by board-up specialists. The public adjuster can handle the board-up specialist for you, from directing them during the board-up, to billing the insurance company, and board removal.

Another thing public adjusters can help you with is securing alternate living arrangements. The options include a trailer on the property, a hotel, or even an apartment with your choice of rented furnishings.

Cleaning up after a fire is best left to professionals. Not only is entering a home after a fire danger, soot and smoke require special chemicals and tools to remove. Your public adjuster can help secure and manage remediation and demo specialists for you.

A public adjuster can be with you through the life of your claim process, which is always longer and more stressful than you think it’s going to be. 

Contact Us Today!

At Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, we offer many services, and can truly help you throughout the course of your claim. Contact us today via email, or by giving us a call at 508-588-4243 .

What’s a Flood?

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Don’t just assume that a flood is not covered by your regular homeowner’s policy. The insurance industry uses the term “flood” very specifically as water that has crossed the ground and entered the house uninvited. This is the type of flood that needs to be covered by flood insurance from the federal government – the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

To regular people, a “flood” is just a lot of water where it’s not supposed to be. Several years ago, a contractor broke a pipe in my apartment. To me, six inches of water on my floor looked exactly like a flood. To the insurance company, it was called a “pipe burst” and it was covered by my policy. A short time before that, water came in across the ground and through my windows, which were at grade level. That was a “flood” and the damage it caused was not covered.

Here are some more examples of the differences between what type of water damage is covered by your regular homeowner’s policy and what needs a special flood policy from NFIP.

Covered by the homeowner’s policy

  • If your home or building is damaged from the outside by a covered peril (wind, fire, explosion, etc.) and rain gets into the house because of that damage – through a hole in the roof for example – that is a covered loss on the regular homeowner’s policy.

  • If the water originates inside the house like from burst pipes, plumbing overflows, dishwasher/washing machine malfunctions, or kids putting in too much detergent – all covered.

Covered by the National Flood Insurance Program

  • If a storm overflows a body of water near you and water comes over the ground and into your home, that’s an NFIP claim.
  • If there’s a heavy rain and water seeps into your house from the yard through the foundation, that’s an NFIP claim.

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Rule of thumb: as soon as water touches the ground outside and then comes into the house, it’s NFIP.

If you’re unsure, call us to find out.

For more information on the NFIP, click here.

Why are hurricane claims more complicated than others?

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Hurricanes usually include windstorm and flooding damage. This complicates things because windstorm losses are paid by private insurers while flooding is covered by the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If you live near the coast or on a floodplain, your mortgagee usually requires you to have flood insurance. You can buy flood insurance even if you’re not on a floodplain, but because it’s not required, most people opt out. Turns out that many of the people affected by Hurricane Harvey flooding do not have flood insurance.
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We can look back on Hurricane Katrina for hints to how these situations play out. After Katrina, private insurance company adjusters were telling homeowners that their damage was caused by flooding, not by wind, and therefore not covered. Most people didn’t even realize they were not covered for floods.
What will hurricane flooding victims do? The feds do offer some assistance, mostly in the form of low-interest loans. This assistance needs to be approved by congress on a case-by-case basis.
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Should we all just get flood insurance? Maybe flood insurance isn’t such a bad idea, even if you’re not on a floodplain. With climate change, storms will create more water, like the billions of gallons Harvey dumped on Texas. I just called my agent to find out about it for my 1,200 square foot house, which is not on a floodplain. For $250,000 coverage, which is the maximum, the cost is about $499 per year – it all depends on your level of risk and mine is low. The cost to insure a house on a floodplain could cost $800 or more. There’s a 30-day grace period so don’t wait till they announce a hurricane to get it.
A public adjuster can help guide you after a claim. Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s wind and what’s flood (the uncovered kind), so it’s good to have an expert on your side. And having just suffered the trauma of a hurricane, it’s pretty hard to deal with an insurance company, so let us help.
Robert L. McCormack Public Adjusters, Inc.
508-588-4243
www.mccormackpublicadjusters.com
claims@mccormackpublicadjusters.com