When Disaster Strikes…

Disaster strikes when you least expect it. Do you have a plan in place if you were to experience a loss at your residence?

Refrigerators, water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines and toilets can be sources of leaks that can cause significant damage if not detected early.

A burst pipe with as little as a one-eighth-inch crack can release 250 gallons of water a day, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.

The most effective way to prevent costly water damage in your home is to install a leak detection and water shut-off system.

Take inventory. It’s a good idea to record what you’ve got in your house so you won’t have to rely on memory in case of theft, fire or some other catastrophe. Better yet, walk through the house with a camera or a video camera, carefully scanning each room, plus the garage and outside of the house and yard. Take out the silver and other valuables and photograph them separately. Keep the photos, video and inventory in a safe place outside of your house. The Insurance Information Institute’s is a great way to get started with your inventory.

Making a claim. Notify your agent or broker of damages as soon as possible. If your losses are covered, he or she will probably arrange to have an adjuster inspect the damages and estimate the repair cost. You will not be charged a fee if you use your insurance company’s adjuster.

If damage from a fire, windstorm or other natural disaster is extensive, you may want to have a public adjuster represent you in filing your claim. Public insurance adjusters are listed in the telephone book. They usually charge a fee of up to 15% of the total value of your settlement.

If you’re considering using a public adjuster, ask your agent, a lawyer or friends or associates for recommendations and check his or her qualifications with your state insurance department. Don’t use individuals who go door-to-door after a major disaster unless you can check qualifications.

Don’t make any permanent repairs before the insurance adjuster arrives. The company can legally refuse to reimburse you for repairs made prior to inspection.

You don’t necessarily have to defer to the insurance company if your claim is refused; policies often allow for varying interpretations. One insurance company adjuster might consider your request for expenses to have someone thaw out frozen pipes an uninsured maintenance cost; another would consider it an insurable peril. Ask for a second opinion, and be persistent.

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