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.