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What you should know before filing an insurance claim from Hurricane Irene

Homeowners are still evaluating damage from Hurricane Irene. Before making a claim, here are some things you should be aware of, according to the Consumer Federation of America:

—    You’ll likely have to pay more out of pocket. Insurers have been raising so-called hurricane deductibles where you must pay more than usual before insurance kicks in. (The Maryland Insurance Administration says it can be 5 percent, so on a $200,000 house that sustained hurricane damage you will have to pay $10,000 before your insurer pays anything.)

—    Report claims as quickly as possible, since insurers often handle claims in the order they come in.

—    Make sure you get the claim number. Claim departments can find your file faster if you have this number.

—    After filing a claim, keep a record of all your contacts with the insurance company, including date, time and a description of the conversation. You’ll want this info later if you decide to file a complaint.

—    Get repair estimates from a “trusted” local contractor, which can serve as a guide when you talk to the adjuster.

—    If the insurer denies your claim or low-balls its offer, ask the company to show the justification for this in the language of your policy.

—    Unhappy with what the insurer offers? Complain to higher ups at the insurance company, using your records to document your case. Complain to the state insurance commissioner.  Or, hire a lawyer. The CFA says courts typically rule in favor of a consumer when a policy is vague.

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