When your home is damaged by wind or hail, knowing tips and insurance claims secrets can help you get the coverage you pay for.
When you buy insurance, you are buying a friend. Someone who treats you fairly and will be there when you need help. Unfortunately, when hail and wind strike your home and you are dealing with storm damage to your roof, siding, and windows, you may find that your troubles have just begun. Too often, insurance companies add to the stress and frustration by looking out for themselves instead of the policyholders who depended on them. You may not be able to fight a homeowners’ insurance claim denial on your own, but these tips could help you get the coverage you pay for.
Important Tips to Protect Your Rights, Once Storm Damage Hits
- Get a copy of your entire policy — not just the brief “Declarations” statement, but the entire policy. Homeowners’ policies are not all the same. Specific language found (or not found) in your insurance contract may be critical to figure out what you are owed.
- Take lots of your own pictures. Photograph the damage and, if applicable, other things that corroborate the severity of the storm. If you use your cell phone, promptly save the photos to another device as a back-up, in case your phone gets damaged or replaced.
- Communicate with the insurance company about your claim only in writing. Texts are OK; emails are better. If you send letters through the mail, keep a copy of everything. Phone calls are a bad idea because they leave you without a clear record of the conversation, and you will be stuck with the insurer’s version of what transpired.
- Ask questions if you don’t understand something or doubt what you are being told. Follow up, and keep asking. But always do it in writing.
- Be reasonable. Your communications should be polite, but firm. Do not exaggerate. Do not threaten. Like your insurance company, you have a duty to act in good faith.
How Do You Start Figuring Out What You Are Owed?
Policies are either “Actual Cash Value” (ACV) or “Replacement Cost” (RC). If ACV, you are entitled to be paid for the loss in value caused by the storm, but how that is measured can vary. Costs of repairing or replacing damaged materials is often the starting point, but because ACV policies are not intended to make you better off after a claim, there will be a depreciation deduction depending on the age of what was damaged.
If you paid the higher premiums for an RC policy, you are entitled to higher benefits. But you may have to actually make the replacements before you get full benefits, typically within a limited time.
Insurance Company Secrets to Watch Out For
Be sure your insurer’s estimate includes all costs you will incur, including sales and excise tax. Many materials can only be bought in fixed quantities, inevitably causing waste. That cost should be included, too. Your policy may have special coverages you aren’t aware of, which your insurance company might not point out. For example, some policies have additional coverage allowing you to be paid extra for debris removal.
If damage was so extensive that several trades will be making repairs, you may be entitled to an “overhead and profit” allowance for general contracting services. If you have an ACV policy, the cost of new materials will be depreciated to reflect the age of the damaged ones being replaced, but that doesn’t always mean the insurer can depreciate the cost of labor incurred to remove the damaged materials or replace them with new ones.
If you have had a storm damage claim denied or unreasonably delayed, in whole or part, have an insurance claim lawyer review your case. Get the help you need. If you live in South Dakota, contact Turbak Law Office at 605-886-8361 to schedule a consultation. We can answer your questions and provide sound advice related to your situation.