AUSTIN — The Texas Department of Insurance offers these recommendations for Obtaining help after Hurricane Harvey. Call your insurance agent or company, protect your home or business from further damage; and make a list of damage and take photos.
Report Your Claim
Call your insurance agent or company as soon as possible to report property damage. For help with company contact information, use Company Lookup or call our Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439. The Help Line is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can also use TDI’s Company Lookup to find company contact information.
Keep a record of everyone you talked to at your agency or company. Be prepared to answer questions about the damage. If you need financial help, ask your agent about an advance payment.
The Texas Department of Insurance has received questions about deductibles after back-to-back storms. Insurers have the ability to make decisions on deductibles on a case-by-case basis. In situations where an insurer has not adjusted the first claim or where repairs have not yet been made, an insurer can waive applying a second deductible. TDI encourages insurers to evaluate these situations using a common-sense standard that is fair to consumers.
File a written claim. Follow the call immediately with a written claim to protect your rights under Texas’ prompt-pay law.
If you have a separate wind and hail policy with the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, report claims at 1-800-788-8247.
If you have a flood policy with the National Flood Insurance Program, report any flood damage to your insurance agent or adjuster.
Contact your auto insurance company if your car was damaged by a storm and you have comprehensive coverage.
Ask your agent about living expenses. Most insurance policies will cover some of the costs you have if you are unable to live in your home because of damage that is covered by your insurance. Check with your insurance company about coverage for living expenses, and keep your receipts for these costs.
Make a list of your damaged property. Take pictures and videos of the damage if possible. Don’t throw away damaged items until your insurance adjuster has seen them.
Remove standing water and dry the area as soon as possible. Move water-soaked items to a dry, well-ventilated area. If you must move items outdoors, put them in a secure area to protect them from theft.
Make repairs needed to protect your home and property from more damage. Cover broken windows and holes to keep rain out. Don’t make permanent repairs until instructed by your insurance company. Keep a record of how much you spend on repairs and save all receipts.
Contact the Red Cross or FEMA for help. If you need shelter or emergency food or water, contact the Red Cross at 1-800-733-2767. If you’re not insured and need financial help, call FEMA at 1-800-621-3362 to see what help is available.
Repair Your Home
Make sure your adjuster and company can contact you. If you need to move, give your insurance company and adjuster your temporary address and phone number.
Try to be there when the adjuster inspects your damage. You may also have your contractor at the inspection or have the contractor review the adjuster’s report before settling the claim. Don’t accept an unfair settlement. Most adjusters can provide proof-of-loss forms if you need to file a flood insurance claim. The flood claim forms must be filed within 60 days.
Make sure your address is visible. Post a sign with your address and the name of your insurance company in a spot that can be easily seen from the street.
Read TDI’s online tip sheet at : www.tdi.texas.gov/consumer/storms/documents/cpmalertcontractors.pdf about working with contractors.
Look Out for Fraud
Disasters are often followed by a criminal element drawn to the area to take advantage of the situation. Fraud can range from shoddy repairs to price gouging. In the worst cases, people offering services to storm victims may simply take their money and run. To report suspected insurance fraud, call TDI’s Consumer Help Line.
TDI offers these tips when hiring a contractor for home repairs:
Call your insurance company first. Your insurance company can give you advice on what repairs should cost.
Use local companies. Make sure to check their references and phone numbers.
Get written estimates. These should be on the company’s letterhead with clear contact information.
Get more than one bid. This will help you decide which offers are legitimate and which may be too high or too good to be true.
Do not pay for repairs up front. Good contractors will typically require a partial payment up front to get started, but your final payment should be made after the job is finished. If you feel pressured or threatened, call the police.
Resolving Your Claim
Your insurance company must acknowledge your claim within 15 days of receiving it. The company may ask you for more information to investigate your claim. The company must then accept or reject your claim within 15 business days of getting all the information it needs from you. If the company rejects your claim, it must tell you why in writing. The deadline may be longer after large disasters.
If the company asks for more information, it must accept or reject your claim within 15 business days of receiving the information or tell you why it needs more time. If the company rejects your claim, it has to explain its reasons in writing. These deadlines may be extended after large disasters.
If you disagree with the adjuster’s final estimate, tell the company why. The company may have overlooked something and may make adjustments. If you still disagree, you can use the appraisal process or hire a public insurance adjuster.
The appraisal process is only available in disputes regarding the amount of your claim. It can’t be used for settling disputes about whether the damage is covered by the policy.
Once all differences are settled, the company has five business days to mail you a check. Surplus lines carriers have 20 days to pay. If you don’t get your payment promptly, call your agent.
If you need information about wind and hail policy claims, have a complaint, or can’t locate your agent or company, call the Coastal Outreach and Assistance Services Team at 1-855-352-6278.
Public Insurance Adjusters
Public insurance adjusters charge fees to help negotiate claim settlements with insurance companies. The adjuster must put all the fees in the written contract. If you hire a public adjuster, you might have less money to repair or replace your property because the public adjuster’s fee is deducted from your settlement.
Under state law, public adjusters can’t give legal advice or help repair your damaged property. Public adjusters must be licensed by TDI. To learn if a public adjuster is licensed, call TDI’s Consumer Help Line or use the Agent Lookup at: https://txapps.texas.gov/NASApp/tdi/TdiARManager.
In the event of a catastrophe, TDI may issue emergency adjuster licenses to residents or nonresidents of Texas who may or may not be licensed adjusters. The emergency license will be active for 90 days with an allowable 90-day extension. Emergency adjusters aren’t required to receive a Texas license before starting work. For more information and for the emergency adjuster license application, visit the emergency adjuster license page at www.tdi.texas.gov/licensing/agent/revagtemeradj.html.
Used with permission, The Insurance Record, Dallas.