You should get to know your insurance policy. Knowing what’s covered and what’s not can save you a world of trouble and possibly a lot of money if you suffer damages from a tornado or hurricane.
“Be sure to review your homeowner’s policy and know what it covers,” said Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney. “Call your agent. Don’t put it off. Do it today.”
Hurricane season extends from June through November but if you find that you don’t have enough coverage, don’t wait to act. Most insurance companies won’t accept new applications after a hurricane enters the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Mississippi Insurance Department’s preparedness checklist.
The insurance department also wants you to be aware that homeowners’ policies don’t cover flood damage caused by rising water, so policyholders are advised to determine if they live in a flood prone area. If they do need flood insurance, it’s available from the National Flood Insurance Program. Another reason not to procrastinate: NFIP has a 30-day waiting period.
Also, if your homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover wind or hail, you can obtain coverage through the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association.
As part of your insurance checkup, the Insurance Department advises you to determine if you have enough insurance coverage to keep up with increases in property values, home improvements you may have made. Take into account expensive purchases for items such as electronics and major appliances.
Check to determine if you need extra coverage for jewelry, boats and other items that your policy may have limited coverage on.
Also, find out if your policy pays for replacement cost or the actual cash value on lost content. The MID defines actual cash value as the dollar amount needed to replace or repair your damaged property after depreciation. Replacement value pays without factoring in depreciation.
Does your policy pay for additional living expenses? That can help if your home is damaged and you have to live elsewhere while repairs are being made.
Now also is the time to take an inventory of your belongings. There are software programs to help with this important but time consuming task or you can use pen and paper to list items, their cost, when you bought them and any serial number. The Mississippi Department of Insurance’s web site www.mid.ms.gov/ includes a home inventory checklist among other helpful guidance. Take photos or video of your possessions, as well.
Then put the inventory lists and photos or video in a safe place such as a safety deposit box. It’s important to make a practice of updating the inventory records, especially when you add big ticket items.
Chaney said most of the storm preparation steps are common sense.
“The main thing is to protect your loved ones and be certain they’re safe and protect your property,” Chaney said.
AFTER A STORM
If your home or property suffers any damage, report it as soon as possible to your insurance company. When you are assigned an adjuster, make certain he or she is licensed by checking identification. Call the Mississippi Department of Insurance at (800) 562-2957 if you need verifying the adjuster or your need help with any claim problem.
If you have to make emergency repairs, take photos before and after the work and keep all your receipts. And hire only licensed contractors with a good reputation. To find out if a contractor is licensed, call the Mississippi State Board of Contractors at (800) 880-6161 or visit www.msboc.us.
INSURERS STAY PREPARED
Insurance companies, like first responders, heed their own advice to policyholders about being prepared for disasters.
State Farm is the largest home and auto insurer in Mississippi and the nation and after more than 90 years in business the company has extensive experience dealing with disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes.
“State Farm has been around a long time and with that comes experience in dealing with just about every situation you can thing of,” said spokesman Roszell Gadson.
He said much like firefighters State Farm stays prepared for disasters. “Our employees constantly practice and prepare to provide the best service to our policyholders.”
He said State Farm has the largest claims staff in the industry and a national catastrophe team that is mobilized “to back up local representatives whenever they’re needed.”
State Farm also sets up mobile claim sites, often fully functioning offices, where people can come to file claims.
Gadson said improvements to weather forecasting and satellite technology help State Farm prepare for hurricanes and other disasters. “We’re glued to weather reports and can react and respond and deploy resources to different staging areas ahead of time, so we have a better handle on what to expect.”
Among the preparations State Farm agents want policyholders to remember is keeping their contact information current. “Updating their cell phone, home phone number and email address is really key to making sure that you have fast response from our claims representatives and agents,” he said.
What to do Before a storm
» Locate important documents like insurance papers and store them in a secure place.
» Take a home inventory. There is a downloadable form at Statefarm.com.
» Take pictures of your belongings for documentation.
» Secure outdoor objects such as lawn furniture and other items that could be tossed around by strong winds and cause damage property.
» Prepare an emergency supply kit and include food and water for several days in case there are power outages.
» This is a reminder to make sure your policy is updated (Connect with your insurance agent)
SOURCE: STATE FARM
» Check your homeowner’s policy to make sure it contains flood and windstorm coverage.
» Review coverage limits on your home and valuables to make sure they are fully covered.
» Determine whether your policy will pay replacement cost or actual cash value in the event of a loss.
» Find out whether your policy will pay for “additional living expenses” to cover the cost of hotels and meals should your home become uninhabitable.
» Record and update an inventory of all personal belongings. Make photos, and, if possible, a videotape showing your possessions. Record insurance policy information.
SOURCE: MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF INSURANCE
What to do After a storm
» Make sure that your family and the structure of your home are safe.
» Contact your insurance agent to report any damage and to start the claims process.
» Take pictures of your property and any damage that can be seen.
» Make temporary repairs to prevent further damage and save receipts for the possible reimbursement of expenses after any required deductible is paid.
» Work with your insurance agent or claims adjustor to fully understand the claims process.
» State Farm customers who have reported a loss can expect to be contacted by a claim representative who will review your policy and explain your coverage, outline the claim process and answer questions.
» Choose licensed and bonded contractors and request references.
» You may contact your local Better Business Bureau or the National Roofing Contractors Association for assistance in locating a professional contractor in a specific geographic area.
» If anyone visits your home without an appointment and professes to represent your insurer, or to be there at the request of your insurer, ask for identification and contact your insurer to confirm before allowing access.
SOURCE: STATE FARM
» Report any damage to your home or property to your insurance agent as soon as possible. Keep track of the special reference number for your claim that your insurance company will issue to you.
» Make sure that the adjuster assigned to you is properly licensed. Always ask to see their identification.
» Make any needed emergency repairs to your home as required by your policy. Be careful of structural damage, escaping gas, or fallen wires.
» Hire only licensed and reputable contractors for repair work.
SOURCE: MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF INSURANCE
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