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Prepare now before the hurricane flags fly

The 2009 hurricane season is here. Don’t be caught unprepared. The steps below will help you minimize hurricane damage and get back on your feet if you are struck.

Just like hurricanes come in many shapes and sizes, so do insurance policies. The questions included here provides information about what policies usually cover, along with some tips on filing claims. To find out about your coverage, consult your policy and contact your professional insurance agent.

Frequently Asked Questions

I have reported my claim, now what should I do?

You should take all steps necessary to prevent further damage — securing property, temporarily boarding windows and roof, drying out carpets and personal property, etc. If the insured does not do this and further damage results, it may not be covered.

You should not undertake any permanent repairs nor dispose of any damaged property before an adjuster has been able to see the damage. When there is water damage to the contents of a home, you should remove water-soaked contents such as carpeting and furniture, however you should not dispose of such items before an insurance adjuster sees them. You can place such items outside under a tarpaulin. In the case of perishable items (i.e., food) that must be disposed of, first take photographs of that property to substantiate the claim. If you don’t, some damages might not be covered.

You should retain all receipts for emergency repairs and for items that might qualify under additional living expenses (such as water, ice, rental charges at another location if the home is uninhabitable, etc.).

Is there anything I can do to speed up the claims process?”

Although the adjuster will contact you as soon as possible, priority will be given to the most severe losses. Also, be aware that larger claims will be settled in stages, not all at once. While waiting for the adjuster, you might want to secure a repair estimate (preferably at least two) for the adjuster to review. This will help the adjuster with the settlement process. Also, take pictures of the damaged property. If you have pictures of the property before the loss, these should be provided to the adjuster.

Make a list of all damaged property, including a description, age, original cost and place of purchase and estimated replacement cost. Any receipts or canceled checks for these items should also be included.

What if my home is so damaged I can’t stay in it?

Under most homeowners and dwelling forms, coverage is provided for additional living expenses. If the home is uninhabitable due to a covered peril and you must temporarily relocate, most policies will reimburse for the reasonable expenses incurred over and above your normal living costs. For example, it would probably cover all reasonable housing expenses since you will be paying a mortgage payment, but would only cover food expenses over and above what the policyholder normally would pay for food.

Power was out for five days and the food in my freezer and refrigerator spoiled. Is it covered?”

Generally, most residential policies do not cover food spoilage resulting from power outages due to the power failure exclusion. A small number of companies provide some very limited coverage (i.e., $250 - $500) as a coverage enhancement. Aside from this, coverage is generally not available.

When power finally came back on, a power surge damaged some of my electrical equipment. Is it covered?

Most homeowners’ policies provide coverage as “sudden and accidental damage from artificially generated electrical current.” However, coverage does not apply to loss of transistors, computer chips and similar items. Therefore, damage from a power surge would not be covered for property such as televisions, VCRs, computers or similar items.

Robert “Bob” Fowinkle is the president of Moore, Fowinkle, & Schroer Agency in Bradenton. He can be reached at (941) 755-2628 or at popeye10@verizon.net.

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