Whether it’s property damage from a tornado or a hurricane, it’s easy to panic when disaster strikes. However, it is important to keep calm and immediately file a claim with your insurance company. To ensure your claim is paid in a fair and timely manner, however, you must carefully track the reporting process. Here’s what you need to know to do so.
The Engineering Report: Once you’ve filed a claim, your insurance company will send a third-party engineer to assess your property and will then write a report detailing the estimated cost to repair the damage. Ultimately, your insurance company will reference this engineering report when determining your settlement.
Fraudulent Reports: In recent years, unfortunately, many homeowners have fallen victim to fraudulent engineering reports. These reports frequently cited preexisting conditions, rather than the natural disaster, as the cause of property damage. The result: claims were wrongly denied.
“There’s no easier way for insurance companies to avoid paying claims than to argue that a storm didn’t cause the damage in the first place,” said Steve Mostyn, founder of Mostyn Law, a Houston-based law firm that specializes in hurricane insurance litigation. “Homeowners have to be very careful about ensuring they get an accurate, fair report.”
If you think the engineer’s estimate or your insurance’s claim decision does not fairly represent the amount or the extent of your property damage, it may be time get a another opinion.
“Always do you own homework, no matter whom they send out to assess the damage,” said Caroline Maida, lead attorney at Mostyn Law. “If you disagree with the report, hire your own person. The best choice is someone you know from your community, someone trusted, and someone licensed.”
Below you’ll find a few helpful tips to get you started on the right path during the property evaluation process.
- Buyer Beware: Hiring an engineer outside of your insurance company is a good way to ensure that you’re getting a fair shake. However, unscrupulous independent contractors looking to make a quick buck tend to flood into disaster zones after the danger has passed. Research local, specialized engineers who are established in your community and stay involved in their work to ensure you don’t fall victim to a scam.
- Document the Aftermath: Immediately after the storm, photograph and video the damage, plus take detailed notes. To the extent possible, leave all damage as is as further proof.
- Blow the Whistle: The insurance claims process can be complex and intimidating, but don’t forget that you’re the best historian of your home. If you think your insurance company is wrong, consider obtaining legal counsel to help represent your interests. Remember, never settle for anything less than you are owed.