Are You Covered for Storm Damage?
Many parts of Maryland were spared the brunt of Irene, but some properties still had damage.
Now it's time for the cleanup.
Maryland avoided a direct hit from Hurricane Irene, which means a lot of folks will be clearing tree limbs from yards and raking leaves.
But some property owners may have suffered damage, whether it is to a home or vehicle. Whether your insurance will pay for repairs all depends on your coverage. Many homeowner policies even pay for tree removal from yards. But most do not cover the damages from flooding.
The Maryland Insurance Administration strongly suggests that you take these steps to determine IF you have coverage for hurricane damage and how to get payments. No agency is just going to write you a check. You will need to arm yourself with information and support your claim.
1.) Contact your insurance carrier as soon as possible to learn about coverage and requirements to receive payments for loss and damages.
2.) Document EVERYTHING. Take photographs, record videos, and prepare an inventory of damaged property and its estimated value. Look for original receipts on items that are now damaged, and include that with your inventory.
3.) Mitigate damage. Take whatever steps you can now to prevent further loss until an inspector can come out to assess the damage and determine coverage. If your car windshield is broken, cover with plastic and duct tape to keep water out. Use tarp and plywood to prevent further damage to a structure.
4.) Hurricane deductible. You homeowners' insurance may include a special deductible for hurricane and wind damage. Check your rider and call your insurance agent first thing Monday – or as soon as power is restored to your community.
Here is general information on what to expect if your home or vehicle was damaged by Irene:
- Vehicles: If there is weather-related damage to your vehicle, such as a tree limb crashing down on the hood, your auto insurance may cover the cost for repairs. Weather-related damage is paid for under "Comprehensive Coverage." After you call your insurance company,a claims adjuster will inspect your vehicle and provide compensation. If your vehicle is a total loss, the adjuster will provide compensation based on the vehicle's actual value prior to the damage. But not everyone has comprehensive coverage, since it costs a little more in premiums. If you're not certain, your insurance provider can tell you. If your insurance is only for liability, you are out of luck.
- Homes: An important first step is to contact your local agent to get information about your coverage. Dig out the insurance documents you were provided when you got your loan. If you have "Replacement Cost Value," you are eligible for coverage to restore your home to its condition prior to the storm. Typically, the amount is paid for in a lump sum and is subject to the dollar amount limits listed in your policy. Your insurance plan may even offer coverage in the event that you have to stay at a hotel or motel because of damage to your property. This is typically described as "Loss of Use" in your homeowners' insurance plan, and your expenses will be paid for after you file a claim and show receipts.
- Yard Cleanup: If you have significant yard debris, such as fallen trees and branches, your homeowner policy may cover the removal. Generally, homeowners' insurance covers up to $500 for tree removal after a storm. This is the total amount and will not be applied per tree. Your insurance may also cover removal of general yard debris by a contractor. If you don't have insurance, check with your city, town or county government. Often there is free limb and yard waste removal after a big storm.
- Flooding: The state of Maryland is dealing with localized flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. But don't expect to get insurance coverage if there is water damage to your home. Most homeowners' insurance does not include flood damage, though property owners in flood-prone areas may pay for special riders that cover water damage in the event of a natural disaster like Irene. Likewise, if there is water seepage in your basement, you may be out of luck. Insurance companies consider wet basements to be related more to home maintenance, even if it results after a hurricane. The bottom line is: Call your insurance agent. If your home was flooded – and you are unsure if you're covered for water damage – the rep will let you know.