Tips to help you navigate damage inspection, choose a contractor, and work with your insurer
A severe storm can change everything in the blink of an eye. But, as challenging as recovery can be, you can take comfort in the fact that many have gone through similar experiences. This makes finding the direction you need a little easier. And, if you learn all you can before a storm hits, you’ll be more prepared to navigate these challenging waters: A little knowledge goes a long way.
Here are a few things to think about when severe weather impacts your life.
Stay safe even after the storm has passed
The first thing you’ll probably want to do is inspect the damage to your home. But keep safety in mind. A study done after a tornado touched down in Marion, Ill., found that 50 percent of the total injuries happened well after the tornado had passed. So, consider the following:
- Watch out for hazards such as broken glass and exposed nails.
- Always assume that downed power lines are energized and dangerous. Stay at least 10 feet away and alert the police and utility company.
- When inspecting your home at night, use a flashlight instead of a candle (or anything with an open flame). This will alleviate the risk of a fire or explosion from a damaged gas line.
- If you do smell gas—or suspect a leak—shut off the main gas line, open the windows, and immediately go outside. Notify the gas company and the proper authorities of the situation and don’t return until they’ve deemed your home to be safe.
Keep a cool head when choosing a contractor to repair your house
To make sure you hire a trustworthy contractor, it’s best to be thoughtful and patient rather than reactionary.
Ask questions and gather information during your conversations with potential contractors. Don’t make any rash decisions without first doing research. Most questionable contractors will run for the hills if they think you’re on to their scheme.
Know how your insurance policies work
Insurance exists to make us whole again if the unexpected happens. But knowing how insurance works can sometimes be a challenge. Here are the answers to a few of the most common insurance questions:
- Is my vehicle covered for storm-related damage? If you bought Comprehensive coverage as part of your car insurance policy before the storm, then generally storm damage is covered (you’ll have to pay a deductible).
- Will my insurance rates go up because of storm damage? Just filing a claim doesn’t necessarily mean your rates will go up. But policy rates for an area strongly affected by a storm could see an increase due to the frequency of claims. In this case, even those who don’t file claims may see their rate increase depending on how catastrophe-prone the location is.
- How do I file a claim for storm-related damage? The same way you would report a claim for a car accident. Simply call your agent or insurance company.
- What if I can’t tell if the damage is more than my deductible? Even if you’re not sure whether the damage is more than your deductible, it’s still a good idea to file a claim. After you report the claim, a trained representative will inspect the damage and prepare a repair estimate. You’re then free to pursue the claim or not.
No one wants to go through a storm. But knowing a few things about what to do when the dust settles will take you one step closer to restoring your life.