Texas Tornado Victims Getting Insurance Help
The Texas Department of Insurance has deployed personnel to hard-hit towns and also posted a list of tips to help the claims process after a storm go more smoothly.
The Texas Department of Insurance has deployed staff members to assist storm victims in four locations where tornadoes inflicted severe damage May 15: Granbury, Millsap, Mineral Wells, and Cleburne. "People who suffered property damage as a result of the recent tornadoes should contact their insurance company or agent to file a claim as soon as possible," said Eleanor Kitzman, the state's insurance commissioner. "Starting this process is the first step toward getting money to make repairs."
The agency posted a list of tips to help the claims process after a storm go more smoothly:
- Contact your insurance agent or company promptly. Keep a record of all contacts you have with your company. Be prepared to answer questions about the extent and severity of damage.
- Make a list of your damaged property. Photograph or video the damage if possible. Refer to your policy to determine the amount of personal property coverage you have. Don't throw away damaged items until your insurance adjuster has had a chance to view them.
- Protect your home and property from further damage. If there is partial damage to your home, make only those repairs reasonably necessary to protect your home and property from further damage, such as covering broken windows and holes to keep rain out or to prevent vandalism or theft. Don't make permanent repairs until instructed by your insurance company. Keep a record of your repair expenses and save all receipts.
- Know whether you have replacement cost or actual cash value coverage. Replacement cost is what you would pay to rebuild or repair your home, based on current construction costs. Actual cash value is the replacement cost of the dwelling minus a deduction for depreciation. Both replacement cost and actual cash value coverage may be subject to a deductible.
- Refer to your policy to know what deductible you'll have to pay. Most homeowners policies have two deductibles: one for windstorm and hail losses and one for all other losses.
- Ask your agent about additional living expenses or loss of use. ALE pays for some of the expenses you incur if you are unable to live in your home because of damage from something covered by your policy. Most policies pay up to 20 percent of your home's insured value. Provide your insurance company with documentation regarding your expenses.
- If you hire a public insurance adjuster, make sure the adjuster is licensed by TDI. Public insurance adjusters work independently and charge a fee for their services. They must disclose their fees in the written contract with you. To learn whether a public insurance adjuster is licensed, call TDI’s Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439 or use the "Licensing Search" feature at https://txapps.texas.gov/NASApp/tdi/TdiARManager.
- Try to be present when the insurance company's adjuster inspects your damage. Be sure your address is visible. If damage forces you to move and you have not already contacted or made other arrangements with your insurance company, leave a note or a plywood sign with your temporary address, phone number, and name of your insurance company.
The agency's advice about resolving a claim notes that an insurance company must acknowledge that it has begun an investigation within 15 days of receiving the claim and may request additional information to settle a claim. "Once it has that information, the company must accept or reject your claim within 15 business days or tell you why it needs more time. Once a settlement is reached, the company has five business days to mail you a check. If you do not receive your payment promptly, call your company or agent. Make sure your company has your address."
The agency advises storm victims to work with reputable contractors, asking for references and verifying them. It recommends contacting the Better Business Bureau or a local chamber of commerce to get information about complaints before hiring a contractor; getting more than one estimate for repairs in writing and a summary of work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, and payment schedules; insisting on an itemized contract in writing; and paying only as work is completed. Most reputable contractors will not require a deposit or down payment, it notes.
For more information, visit the department's Hail and Tornadoes Resource Page.