Disaster Insurance Claim Guide

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab

Disaster Insurance Information

Disaster Insurance Information

Before a natural disaster, you can prepare by knowing your options for insurance. This includes options for both homeowners and renters. Learn about what types of insurance there are and how they cover different disasters. Flood insurance may need to get purchased separately from other insurance. It may be mandatory for some homeowners to get insurance - both flood and homeowners. This depends on the area that they live in as well as whether they have certain mortgage obligations. Renters may benefit when they suffer losses or damages to their personal property. 

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Each insurance policy is different and has different terms or conditions attached. It is important to read your insurance policy and understand the type of insurance you have. Insurance may cover different damages or losses after a disaster. Contact your insurance provider to find detailed information if you have a policy. Find a copy of your policy and read it. Your insurance agent can provide a copy of the policy if needed. 

Some disaster events are not covered by most standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. Flood insurance coverage is available as a separate policy both from the National Flood Insurance (NFIP) and from a few private insurers. Sewer backups are not generally covered under a typical homeowner’s insurance policy, nor are they covered by flood insurance. This type of coverage is usually purchased as a separate policy or as an endorsement of a policy.

Responsibilities After a Disaster

Responsibilities After a Disaster

Disaster survivors might wonder what to do with their property after a disaster event occurs. An insurance holder might want to read through their policy to learn what kind of duties they have to comply with to file an insurance claim post-loss. Most policies contain this list of duties but the duties generally include:

  1. Giving the insurer notice of the loss;
  2. Notifying the police in the case of loss by theft;
  3. Protecting the property from further loss;
  4. Preparing an inventory of damaged personal property showing its quantity, description, and actual cash value; and;
  5. Submitting a signed, sworn proof of loss.

The policyholder may be required as reasonable to show proof of the damaged property (i.e. photos, video), provide requested records and documents, and permit copies of documents to be made.

A homeowner should take reasonable steps to protect their property from further damage after they assess damages. Save receipts for what is spent and submit the receipts to the insurance company for reimbursement. Payments for temporary repairs may also be part of the total settlement. Extensive permanent repairs should not be made until the claims adjuster assesses the damage.

Owners of property such as homes have a responsibility to take reasonable precautions to protect the home from damage. An insurance company does not generally cover damage due to lack of maintenance, mold, or infestation from termites or other pests.

Insurance Claims After a Disaster

If you are a homeowner or a renter, contact your agent or insurance company to file a claim. Make sure you have the following information ready:

• The name of your insurance company
• Your policy number
• A telephone and/or email address where you can be reached at all times

An adjuster should contact you within a few days of filing your claim. If you do not hear from an adjuster, please contact your insurance agent or company again.

Separate damaged from undamaged property. Your adjuster will need evidence of the damage to your home and possessions to prepare your repair estimate.

  • Take photographs of all of the damaged property, including discarded objects, structural damage, and standing floodwater levels.

  • Make a list of damaged or lost items and include their date of purchase, value, and receipts, if possible.

  • Officials may require disposal of damaged items so, if possible, place flooded items outside of the home.

Your adjuster will assist you in preparing a Proof of Loss (which is your sworn statement of the amount you are claiming, including necessary supporting documentation) for your official claim for damages. You’ll need to file your Proof of Loss with your insurance company within 60 days. You’ll receive your claim payment after you and the insurer agree on the amount of damages and the insurer has your complete, accurate, and signed Proof of Loss.

If you are a renter and do not have renter’s insurance, the homeowner’s insurance policy will not pay for the replacement of your property. If you are uninsured, you may apply for financial assistance from FEMA.

Contact the adjuster's supervisor if you have problems with your claim or disagree with the adjustor’s estimate. If that does not resolve the disagreement, contact the claims department to discuss the amount difference or coverage issue with a claim examiner. Send a new proof of loss form with supporting documentation for the entire amount you request directly to the claim examiner.

What to Expect When Filing An Insurance Claim

What to Expect When Filing an Insurance Claim

You can find out how much your deductible is so that you can consider whether the loss is likely to exceed the amount of the deductible. Related to a disaster, the all-perils deductible and any named-storm deductible are listed on the declaration page of your insurance policy. If you don't have a copy of your insurance policy, you can ask your insurance agent. 

After a disaster, you may return home to a property or home that needs repairs or that suffered a loss or damages. Prepare a personal property home inventory list which includes any photos, videos, or other documentation to show your proof of loss. The personal property home inventory lists all losses or damages after a disaster. You can use your personal property home inventory to help you file your insurance claim.

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After a loss, call your insurance company about your claim and keep a record of the conversation. Write down the person's name, date, and time of the call. The company will then submit a loss form and assign an adjuster to your claim. You can ask the following questions from the insurance company related to your claim: 

  • The name and contact information for each person you speak with about your claim.
  • Your insurance claim or reference number
  • How long do you have to file a claim
  • A general idea of what the policy covers and does not cover
  • Information about your insurance deductible 
  • When you can expect an adjuster to call 
  • Any other information needed to process your claim

Your insurance adjuster may call you to make initial contact about your claim. The insurance adjuster may ask you about your claim and may ask for you to produce a list of damages such as a home inventory list, i.e. proof of loss. Submit your proof of loss and other documentation to substantiate the claim.

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The adjuster will review the documentation and may follow up with additional information to clarify or qualify details about specific property items after you have submitted your proof of loss. The adjuster reviews the insured's previous loss history, verifies that premium payments are current, and proceeds to investigate and gather facts about the loss. The adjuster may communicate to conduct an on-site inspection to gather additional facts about the loss and to document the damage. The adjuster verifies the cause of the loss and determines what damages are specific to your policy and coverage. 

Last Review and Update: Sep 12, 2022
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