You’ve filed your insurance claim and started the road to recovery. That’s great news! But how do you know if the insurance is paying you what you actually deserve? The fact of the matter is, insurance companies are in over their heads and have started digging their heels into the ground. Corporate executives, hundreds of miles away and unaffected, do not want their policy agreements to be completely fulfilled. Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon and it won’t be the last time this happens. You need the power to understand exactly what your policy provides to make sure you are being adequately covered. We have the experience to help people like you get back to a normal life.
Replacement Cost and Actual Value refers to how the insurance company determines what to pay you. Replacement cost will provide you with the necessary compensation to repurchase an item of comparable quality. Actual value will only reimburse you for what the item was valued at when it was lost or destroyed, and the item’s depreciation over time factors into this number.
Extended and Guaranteed Replacement Cost applies to rebuilding homes and businesses that were damaged beyond repair during the storm. A guaranteed replacement cost clause agrees to provide money up to a certain amount listed in the policy. Although “guaranteed” sounds better, this type of policy doesn’t take into consideration rising costs of construction over time. If your policy has been updated to reflect the rising cost of local buildings, usually a similar structure can be rebuilt for the amount listed. Extended replacement costs will cover a specific percentage of the amount listed in the policy to compensate for high demand and rising costs. Some extended replacement clauses even commit to fully replacing the building that was lost. Neither policy covers upgrading building materials, and will only replace what was originally destroyed.
Mobile Homes are sometimes covered by a stated amount policy. This policy needs to be updated annually to ensure that your home and mobile home are both covered under the maximum amount listed.
The majority of insurance policies will cover the cost to replace buildings to the standard of “like kind and quality”. This generally means that if you have a two-story house with four bedrooms, then your policy will cover the cost to rebuild another two-story, four bedroom house. If you have not informed your insurance company about significant improvements to your home, you may not be fully covered.
Significant damage to homes can leave families stranded, and your insurance will help cover these additional expenses. The amount available to policyholders is typically 20 percent of the home’s insured value. If you cannot wait to have money advanced to you, save your receipts and expect to be reimbursed for “reasonable” living expenses while your home is being repaired. Some policies pay more than 20 percent and others limit reimbursement to a specific amount of time.
Updated building codes can affect your settlement. All newly developed buildings must meet certain safety specifications. Over time, these minimum standards can change, and some buildings will need to be upgraded to meet these new standards. Complying with the new code can cost more than your insurance policy will cover, and that means you have to pay the difference. If you are faced with repairs that include updated building codes, ask your insurance provider about an endorsement plan. These plans can be added to your existing policy and help you deal with the additional costs.
Insurance adjusters are important in deciding how much damage was sustained to the property and how much repairs are likely to cost. Insurance adjusters are provided by your insurance company and will inspect the damage in person for free. Public adjusters are not affiliated with any insurance company and can charge up to 15 percent of the total settlement for their services. If you decide to work with a public adjuster, it is worthwhile to ensure they are legitimate and licensed. There are several resources online that can help you identify the authenticity of your public adjuster. The Better Business Bureau and the National Association of Independent Insurance Adjusters.
Vehicles damaged or destroyed from the hurricane qualify to be replaced under comprehensive coverage. Contact your automobile insurance provider to get help making your claim. If the vehicle is totaled, you can expect compensation for what it was valued at right before the storm.
Landscaping damage is usually covered under standard homeowners insurance. You can expect up to $500 to remove trees that have fallen on your home or other insured structures on your property. The cost for removing fallen trees and destroyed vegetation around your yard is not covered.
Water that has entered your home because of damage to the roof or a broken window can cause damage and is covered under windstorm policies. Flooding of your home that was caused by surging ground waters, rising rivers, lakes, or tidal waters is only covered under a separate flood policy. Flood policies are purchased from the National Flood Insurance Program.
The insurance companies are swamped with claims, and it can take some time before a settlement can be complete. Many properties along the Gulf Coast were affected by the recent hurricane and insurance adjusters are scrambling to visit every location. In some instances, deadlines are given to these adjusters to inspect as many homes as possible. If you suspect an insurance adjuster hastily came to a conclusion when assessing your damages, do not hesitate to get a second opinion. Other adjusters may rely on you to report the bulk of your damages, without doing their own inspection. Be sure to mention to any adjuster that any damages you point out are only the ones you’ve identified so far. Water damage can be very difficult to find for the untrained individual. Reach out to a local contractor that you trust and get an independent quote for the estimated costs to rebuild your damaged property.
While you wait for an insurance adjuster to survey the damage, you should compile a list of items that were lost or destroyed. Having a list prepared is a great way to expedite the recovery process, and helps the insurance company quickly reimburse you. Depending on your coverage and the extent of the damages, you may be required to fill out a Proof of Loss form. The form is a legal record of the items filed as lost in your claim and their estimated value.
Once your claim has been approved, you get to decide which company repairs your home or business. Insurance companies will assist you in finding the right contractor and will negotiate price differences on your behalf. Don’t waste any money on temporary fixes by contractors as this will be deducted from your total claim. If you feel unsatisfied with your insurance company’s role in assisting you through this process, you may need to seek legal help.
Damages to your home and your personal belongings will be issued in separate checks from your insurance company. If your home has a mortgage, one of these checks will be addressed to you and the lender. Your lender has the right to ensure repairs are properly performed and will need to endorse the check. Usually, the money is placed safely in an escrow account and released when the repairs are completed. The lender may also wish to independently verify the repairs are complete before distributing the funds.
You have time to make additional claims, but time is limited. Ask your insurance provider about deadlines and don’t be afraid to reopen claims. The insurance companies are reeling from the financial destruction caused to the Gulf, and they may be tempted to brush off your concerns. This is not acceptable. Insurance companies have a responsibility to uphold the policies you have purchased.
Our firm is very successful at fighting against large corporate bullying and defending the people who have been unjustly burdened. The hurricane’s aftermath has left thousands filing claims with their insurance providers, and these companies do not want to pay. We are from Houston and many of our staff have spent their entire lives here. Our family and friends all along the Texas Gulf Coast have suffered from this devastating storm. We want you to know, you are not alone. We are here to help. If you have any questions or concerns about what your insurance provider is telling you, contact us immediately. We have a dedicated team ready to help you secure what you are owed. You don’t need to worry about fighting greedy insurance companies, just worry about getting your family settled and your home back to normal. Let us help you make things right again, and reach out today at (713) 352-0031.