Heavy rains and winds pummeled the New York Metro area this past weekend, causing major damage to many homes and businesses. If you experienced property damage, you need to know what to do after a loss.
If you suffer a loss, the first thing to do is to notify your insurance company or its agent. You can do this by telephone, although it is a good idea to follow up with written notification. Remember, if you give the notice to your broker, rather than directly to the insurance company, you still have a responsibility to make sure that the insurance company receives notice of your claim.
It is also important to notify your insurance company promptly after any incident takes place that might result in a claim at some later date, even though no claim was made at the time the event occurred.
For example, if your dog bites a neighbor or a guest falls on your property, it should be reported to the insurance company even though you don't know whether any claim is actually going to be made against you. Your failure to notify the company promptly might allow it to deny coverage in the event a claim if filed against you at a later date.
It is also important to protect your property against further damages. For example, if the windows are broken, have them boarded up to protect against further vandalism or burglary. The cost of this type of protection is covered by, and would be reimbursed by your insurance company.
However, no permanent repairs should be made until your company or its representative has inspected the property. The company has the right to inspect the property in its damaged state, and can refuse to pay you for any damage that is repaired before inspection.
An adjuster will be sent from your insurance company to examine the damage and give you an estimate of the cost of repairs or replacement. You should also get an estimate from your own contractor to compare with the insurance company's estimate. Your contractor will probably charge a fee for this service but might credit that fee to your bill if you hire that contractor to repair and/or replace your property.
If you need assistance, your agent, broker or insurance company sales representative should help you fill out the claim form and help gather the materials you need to substantiate your loss.
In the event you are unfortunate enough to experience a major loss such as a fire or severe windstorm which has badly damaged or destroyed your home, and you are not in a position to negotiate a settlement with your company, you may want to consult an attorney or call a licensed public adjuster to act on your behalf with your insurance company.
Public adjusters are licensed by the Insurance Department. They represent you and not the insurance company. They will help you in taking inventory of your loss, securing your home from vandalism, contacting your insurance company, advising you on the extent of your coverage and help you secure the services needed to repair or rebuild you home. They will negotiate on your behalf with the adjuster from the insurance company.
A public adjuster may not charge a fee more than 12.5% of the recovery amount and must get a signed compensation agreement from you in which the amount of compensation is clearly stated. Such agreement may be cancelled up to midnight of the third business day after the date on which you have signed the compensation agreement. In addition, public adjusters may not solicit your business between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Another alternative to consider when an agreement cannot be reached between you and your insurance company is the appraisal process. Every homeowner, tenant, cooperative apartment and condominium policy issued in New York contains a provision whereby you and your company select a competent and disinterested appraiser. The two appraisers, in turn, select an umpire. Each appraiser must evaluate the loss and determine the value of each item. Any disagreements between the appraisers regarding the value of any items are submitted to, and settled by the umpire. The costs of this process are paid by the policyholder and the insurance company.
Source: NY State Insurance Department