Texas Tornadoes – Texas Department of Insurance Issues Help Guidelines
By Jim Satterfield, Firestorm President
In the aftermath of severe tornado activity in North Texas on May 15, Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) staff will be on-site in Granbury, Millsap, Mineral Wells, and Cleburne to help insurance consumers.
“People who suffered property damage as a result of the recent tornadoes should contact their insurance company or agent to file a claim as soon as possible,” said Eleanor Kitzman, Texas Insurance Commissioner. “Starting this process is the first step toward getting money to make repairs.”
Homeowners insurance policies generally provide coverage for losses from wind and hail, and in certain situations, might cover losses from wind-blown rain.
The following tips will help make the claims process go smoother:
Contact your insurance agent or company promptly. Keep a record of all contacts you have with your company. Be prepared to answer questions about the extent and severity of damage.
Make a list of your damaged property. Photograph or video the damage if possible. Refer to your policy to determine the amount of personal property coverage you have. Don’t throw away damaged items until your insurance adjuster has had a chance to view them.
Take steps to protect your home and property from further damage. If there is partial damage to your home, make only those repairs reasonably necessary to protect your home and property from further damage, such as covering broken windows and holes to keep rain out or to prevent vandalism or theft. Don’t make permanent repairs until instructed by your insurance company. Keep a record of your repair expenses and save all receipts.
Know if you have replacement cost or actual cash value coverage. Replacement cost is what you would pay to rebuild or repair your home, based on current construction costs. Actual cash value is the replacement cost of the dwelling minus a deduction for depreciation. Both replacement cost and actual cash value coverage may be subject to a deductible.
Refer to your policy to know what deductible you’ll be required to pay. Most homeowners policies have two deductibles: one for windstorm and hail losses, and one for all other losses.
Ask your agent about additional living expenses (ALE) or loss of use. ALE pays for some of the expenses you incur if you are unable to live in your home because of damage from something covered by your policy. Most policies pay up to 20 percent of your home’s insured value. Provide your insurance company with documentation regarding your expenses.
If you hire a public insurance adjuster, make sure the adjuster is licensed by TDI. Public insurance adjusters work independently and charge a fee for their services. They must disclose their fees in the written contract with you. To learn whether a public insurance adjuster is licensed, call TDI’s Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439 or use the “Licensing Search” feature on TDI’s website: https://txapps.texas.gov/NASApp/tdi/TdiARManager.
Try to be present when the insurance company’s adjuster inspects your damage. Be sure your address is visible. If damage forces you to move, and you have not already contacted or made other arrangements with your insurance company, leave a note or a plywood sign with your temporary address, phone number, and name of your insurance company.
Resolving your claim
Your insurance company must acknowledge that it has begun an investigation within 15 days of receiving your claim. The company may request additional information to settle your claim. Once it has that information, the company must accept or reject your claim within 15 business days or tell you why it needs more time. Once a settlement is reached, the company has five business days to mail you a check. If you do not receive your payment promptly, call your company or agent. Make sure your company has your address.
Be Aware of Fraud
- Work with reputable contractors. Ask for references and verify them.
- Contact your Better Business Bureau or local chamber of commerce to get information about complaints before hiring a contractor.
- Get more than one estimate for repairs. An estimate should be in writing and provide a summary of work to be done, time schedules, guarantees and payment schedules.
- Insist on an itemized contract in writing and pay only as work is completed. Be cautious if you are asked to pay any money upfront; most reputable contractors will not require a deposit or down payment.
- Write down the contractor’s driver’s license number and license plate number.
- Never let a contractor interpret your insurance policy language.
- Never sign a contract with blanks.
Keep your family prepared and safe
Firestorm CEO Harry Rhulen and I wrote Disaster Ready People for a Disaster Ready America specifically to address the need for disaster preparedness at home, and the book has become a cornerstone of many personal and corporate preparedness programs. “Remember: you are your own first responder,” the book reminds readers as it guides them through a comprehensive program of readiness. Download the ebook for free.
In Texas, if you suspect price gouging, call the Office of the Attorney General at 1-800-337-3928.
For More Information: Call the TDI Consumer Help Line: 1-800-252-3439 (Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m to 5 p.m.) Assistance is available in both English and Spanish.
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