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How to File an Insurance Claim After a Hurricane

Here in the Carolinas, the risk of hurricanes is a fact of life from June 1 through November 30. North Carolina and South Carolina are both in the top five states most likely to be hit by a hurricane. Most residents have a healthy respect for the incredible damage a hurricane can do – we’ve all heard the stories of survivors, and many Carolinians have personally witnessed one or two storms. Even though we may prepare in advance, we often find ourselves defenseless when a hurricane makes landfall, roaring through town and creating havoc with houses, cars, and property. Once that happens, take the following nine steps to file your hurricane damage claim as soon as possible.

Massive destruction of a wood frame house in the aftermath of a hurricane.

9 Steps to Take When Filing a Hurricane Damage Claim in the Carolinas

The following steps can help make life easier for both you and your insurance company representatives when dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane.

  1. File a hurricane damage claim by contacting your insurance company and/or agent ASAP. Here are phone numbers of carriers if you don’t know yours.
  2. Ask the insurance company representative:
    • Is the damage you incurred covered under your policy?
    • When will your damage claim be adjusted?
    • Who will be the adjuster, and who does the adjuster work for?
    • How long might it take to process your claim after a hurricane?
    • What do they need with regard to repair estimates?
    • What can and should you do to lessen your damages?
  1. Write down your claim number.
  2. Take photos and/or videos of damaged property after a hurricane and make notes about the damage – particularly if there is structural damage. Do not discard damaged items until an adjuster has inspected them. Many insurers, such as Travelers and USAA, are using drones to take photos of damages. If you cannot get to your property, ask your insurer if they have drones in the area that can take photos of your property damage.
  3. Make temporary, basic repairs right away so the damage does not get worse. Hang tarps and cover broken windows but make sure you take your photos of the damage first.
  4. Save all receipts for repair and replacement of damaged or destroyed property.
  5. Keep a journal of every conversation with insurance representatives and others involved in your hurricane damage claim. Record the day and time of the conversation, the name of the person you spoke with, and make note of any monetary amounts mentioned.
  6. Keep all receipts for living expenses while away – hotel rooms, food, and other costs of evacuation. Most homeowner policies that cover wind damage will cover these costs.
  7. When a claims adjuster arrives, ask if they work for your insurance company or for an independent adjuster. If they work for an independent adjuster, ask if they are authorized to make claims decisions and payments on behalf of your insurance company.
Tip: Be cautious of strangers who phone you or show up in person claiming to be adjusters or contractors. Your insurance company should tell you the date and time an adjuster will be meeting you.

Should I File a Hurricane Damage Claim With More Than One Insurance Company?

It is very likely that you may have to file with more than one insurer because hurricane damage comes from many sources such as wind, hail, rain, surge, and flooding.

  • Standard homeowners insurance generally covers damage caused by heavy winds and hail in a hurricane. Many policies pay additional living expenses incurred for a specific period of time if you can’t return to your home immediately.
  • If your vehicle was damaged, you will need to make a claim on your comprehensive auto coverage if you have this type of insurance.
  • Structures or belongings damaged by flooding are only covered by flood insurance.
Tip: It’s always wise to review and update your insurance policies on a regular basis. Be sure you know what is and isn’t covered by each policy.

What Does Flood Insurance Cover?

Flood insurance is designed to cover water damage to your home and belongings that is caused by flooding, for example from a storm surge or heavy downpour that builds up faster than it can reasonably drain. In a hurricane, storm water from the ocean can be pushed toward the shore by the force of the swirling winds. This surge of water combines with the normal tides and can increase the water level up to 30+ feet. Flood insurance isn’t included in most standard homeowners, condo, renters, or mobile home insurance policies, but coverage can be purchased separately.

A house damaged by high flood waters, caused by a hurricane storm surge.

Most flood insurance policies are underwritten by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), but are delivered to the public by a network of approximately 60 insurance companies and NFIP Direct. It’s important to be informed of what NFIP coverage protects and doesn’t protect. You can review NFIP flood maps to learn more about a specific community’s risk of flooding.

Additional Hurricane Damage Claims Assistance from James Scott Farrin

We’ve put together additional national, N.C., and S.C. relief resources that are available to homeowners, business owners, and farmers during the hurricane season. It’s just one of the ways our team shows how it cares about our Carolina neighbors.

Call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 if you feel that your insurance company is not treating your claim fairly. We have attorneys and staff members who have worked at large insurance companies, and they know how to handle delay tactics and lowball offers. Let us fight for you as you work to recover from this hurricane.

We hope this information helps you get your life back in order as quickly and painlessly as possible. After a hurricane, always take safety precautions, obey authorities, and try to remain patient.