Effective Claims Reporting and Management after a Hurricane

The 2017 hurricane season has gotten off to a roaring start with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma leaving devastating impacts throughout the Gulf and the Atlantic. Individuals and businesses alike are beginning to fully assess the damages and report insurance claims for their losses in order to begin the recovery and rebuilding process. 

There are a number of tips to help you effectively report and manage your claim after a hurricane. 

 

Mitigate your damages

  • Take steps to protect property from further damage (e.g. tarps, temporary repairs, water extraction, board up broken windows, etc.).  You do not need the insurance company’s permission to do this.  You have a duty under the policy to mitigate any further damage to your property.
  • Immediately dry everything that got wet in order to avoid the potential for mold.
  • Move valuables to a safe, dry location (if applicable).
  • If possible, take photos or make a videotape of damaged property or debris before you begin any repairs so there is no question that the action taken and costs incurred were necessary.

Report the claim promptly

  • The sooner the claim is reported, the sooner it can be inspected and paid.
  • Do not jeopardize coverage with late notice to the carrier.
  • You do not need to have estimates before reporting the claim.
  • Do not wait to report the claim until you determine if it exceeds your deductible—the carrier can close the claim if it turns out to be under the deductible.
  • Have your insurance policy number on-hand.
  • Provide a description of loss, including date of loss and type of damage sustained.

Retaining damaged items

  • The insurance company may want to do an inspection of the items.
  • Anything that poses a potential health hazard should be photographed and properly discarded.

Retain documentation of costs

  • Retain all invoices from vendors or contractors providing cleanup services and/or emergency repairs, time sheets for hourly workers assisting with the cleanup, etc. to ensure all costs are captured and attributable to the loss.
  • If your business cannot operate due to the damage sustained, retain documentation of extra expenses incurred to resume operations quickly (e.g. rent for a temporary location, transportation expenses to relocate, installation of computers at temporary location, etc.).
  • File this information separately to prevent an overlap of normal costs with the claim related expenditures

While effectively reporting and managing a claim after a disaster can help save you time and money, the factor that makes the biggest impact is whether or not you were adequately prepared for the disaster.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, so there is still the threat of more damaging storms to come.  Whether you are in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean or anywhere along the Atlantic— proper preparation can save lives, prevent damages and expedite recovery. Check out these tips to develop a hurricane preparedness plan well before the threat of a new hurricane exists.

Hurricane Preparation before the Threat

  • Know your region and learn more about flood-related disasters most likely to affect your business. It is not only coastal communities that need to prepare. Inland businesses can also be affected by power outages, downed trees, debris and flooding. 
  • Review your insurance coverage.  Make sure that your policies reflect the proper value of your property and contain coverage for what you want insured.  Remember that flood damage is not covered under a basic property policy—you need a separate flood policy or endorsement.
  • If you have a building lease, review it to see if the building’s flood insurance policy covers structural elements in your space.  Most commercial insurance does not cover flood damage.
  • Review equipment lease and rental agreements to determine if you are responsible for flood damage. 
  • Ensure that important business files are backed up on a server away from your building so they are not lost if electronic and paper files are destroyed by water.
  • Videotape all your buildings, machinery, equipment and contents.  Keep the videotape in a separate, secure location.
  • Keep detailed records of all items in the building, including serial numbers, costs, and dates of purchase.  Store those records on a remote server or in another place you can access after a flood to aid in the claims process.
  • Review your written crisis management plan with key personnel.  Make sure that everyone is aware of the disaster procedure, their responsibilities, and emergency communications.
  • Check your property for existing signs of damage and repair them before the storm if possible.
  • Periodically inspect flashing and roof material to ensure they are properly secured.
  • Regularly remove debris from drains and unclog spouting/gutters.
  • Test emergency lighting, generator, flashlights, and communication systems to ensure they function properly.

If you have a question about a claim or would like more information, please contact Peggie Fairer, Claim Consultant, at pfairer@rcmd.com or 410-339-5869.