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Hurricane Prep in Florida: Making an Insurance Claim

Hurricanes, Insurance, and Your Home

We’re well into hurricane season by now, but we all know the worst storms seem to happen in August and September (NOAA predicts 12-17 storms this year – five to nine being hurricanes). Most of us are pretty knowledgeable about being prepared with the essentials: water, tarps, flashlights and batteries, medications, and non-perishable foods…(no, beer is not on the list). But, are you ready if your house is damaged and you have to make an insurance claim?

I started thinking about this idea and realized I’m not ready, so I’ve come up with a plan I thought I’d share with you

Step One – Get familiar with your insurance policy.

Get out your policy and really look at what’s in there. Start with what is called the “Declarations” page – the summary of your plan. It should have your coverage amounts and premium, and your hurricane deductible. Make a copy or scan a copy of the “Dec Page” so you can access it on your phone. Or make sure you have your insurers’ app on your phone. You’ll need to know the policy number and be familiar with your coverages.

Step Two – Know your declaration details.

Educate yourself about what’s on your “Dec Page”. Here’s a helpful article from Policy Genius outlining the details on a declarations page.

Step Three – Ask yourself some questions about your coverage.

  • What is my hurricane deductible?
  • What is my contents coverage? Is it enough?
  • What is my dwelling coverage? Is it enough?
  • What is my water damage coverage? Most policies have a water damage exclusion for damage caused by floods, sewage, or water main failure. You are most likely covered for water damage caused by a burst pipe or overflowing toilet.

This may seem super obvious, but if you don’t understand something, call your agent and ask questions. This article from Nerd Wallet may be helpful to better understand hurricane coverage.

Step Four – Consider flood insurance.

You can check with FEMA here to see if your home is in or near a flood area. Talk to someone about purchasing flood insurance if you think you may need it. Most of these policies have a 30-day period to take effect, so do it before a storm is on the horizon. I wrote about recent changes in Florida flood insurance earlier this year.

Step Five – Make an inventory of the contents of your home.

There are some good resources out there to make it easy. Here’s a link to a home inventory app you can put on your phone. Or if you prefer pen and paper, here’s a more traditional checklist. At the very least, take pictures and/or videos on your phone.

Step Six – Know how and where to go to make a claim if you need to.

Most insurance companies have multiple ways to contact them to make a claim: phone apps, a phone number, or call your agent. Forbes’ has an excellent summary of how to file a hurricane claim and what you’ll need. And remember – file a claim as soon as possible.

It’s not rocket science, but the insurance lingo and details can be confusing, especially in an emotionally charged situation where you have serious damage. Knowing the details of your policy might help you sleep a little easier during a storm when you can hear the wind whipping around the house at 2am.

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