Here's what you'll need to do and what you can expect:
How to Prepare for Your Insurance AdjusterBefore you make your appointment with your insurance company, take an inventory of damages to your property and belongings. Take pictures and locate receipts, if at all possible. And do not make any permanent repairs. If you need to cover a broken window with a tarp, that's fine; just don't go out and purchase a new window. This can negatively affect your claim.
If you have time, you may want to get an estimate of repair costs from an independent contractor. You'll be able to use that estimate if you feel that the offer from your insurance company is too low.
Also, if you're forced to relocate (because your house is uninhabitable) or make any temporary repairs, keep your receipts. Those costs may be reimbursable.
Working with your Insurance AdjusterOnce you've filed a claim, your insurance company will send out an adjuster to survey the damage. Provide this person with an inventory of damages to your property and belongings, as well as any pictures you've taken and receipts you've located.
Keep in mind your insurance adjuster is likely dealing with hundreds of claims at any given time and, after a natural disaster, their job is much more hectic. Providing details, pictures, and receipts will make their job easier, which will help your claim proceed more quickly.
Generally, your adjuster will take your information and the information he or she cataloged during the visit to your property and contact you in the coming days. In most states, your insurance company is required by law to handle your claim in a "fair and reasonable" manner. Don't be afraid to call your adjuster and ask for updates. It's important they know you're on top of things.
What's covered in your policyHurricane damage can be tricky from a homeowners policy perspective. Damage from debris (such as a falling tree) or wind (such as rain blown through a broken window) is generally covered. Damage from flooding, unfortunately, rarely is. Keep in mind that hurricane deductibles are often a percentage of total damage (as opposed to a set figure) so you'll have to spend a fair amount of money when making repairs.
You can read much more about what's covered in our "How to file an effective insurance claim after a Hurricane" article, as well as learn how to get flood relief from the Federal Government.
What to do after you receive an offer from your adjusterIn a perfect world, your insurance adjuster will make a fair offer. But sometimes, this simply isn't the case. If you feel the payout being offered is too low, it's okay to negotiate or ask the adjuster to show you how he or she arrived at that figure and what language in your policy allowed them to do so. This gives you information you'll need as well as keeps the insurer from coming up with new reasoning for any reduced payouts later.
If can't come to an agreement through negotiation, you may want to consider getting an independent contractor's estimate if you haven't already. That estimate can be used as a counterweight to your insurance company's estimate when negotiating.
If further negotiations don't help you arrive at a number you're comfortable with, keep in mind you always have the option to call your insurance company's regional or national headquarters. You can also file an appeal with your insurance company for a larger settlement.
Your last two options are getting outside parties involved. This can make the process move more slowly, but it's important to get what you deserve, not simply what's offered. Consider contacting your state's insurance department who will usually make inquiries and investigations into your claim. And, of course, consider contacting a lawyerto help. Sometimes, just having the help and representation of an attorney will get an insurance company to act more fairly.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.