Natural Disaster Insurance Claims: How to Get the Coverage You Deserve

Natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires can be devastating, both emotionally and financially. And while insurance policies are meant to provide a safety net, many policyholders make costly filing errors that end up leaving them underinsured or out-of-pocket. Understanding your policy’s fine print is crucial to make sure you get the coverage you need.

To help you navigate the aftermath of a natural disaster, we’ve put together an action plan that outlines how to file a successful insurance claim.

Home Insurance, Renters Insurance, and Water Damage Insurance: What’s Covered?

Renters insurance covers your personal belongings inside your rental property, but not the actual building, which is typically covered by your landlord’s insurance. Home insurance, on the other hand, covers both your property and its contents, as well as medical expenses if someone is injured inside your home.

Water damage insurance protects your property from water damage, such as leaks and sewer backups, caused by events like heavy rain. If you live near a body of water, it’s a wise idea to invest in flood insurance, even if your home isn’t in a high-risk flood zone.

Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim: Steps to Success

  • When disaster strikes, time is of the essence. Here are the essential steps to follow:
  • Document the damage by taking photos.
  • Make emergency repairs to prevent further damage.
  • Contact your insurance provider.
  • Understand the terms of your policy.
  • Carefully vet any contractors you hire.

Taking photos of the damage

Is critical, according to Stacey Giulianti, Chief Legal Officer at Florida Peninsula Insurance Company in Boca Raton, Florida. She advises policyholders to photograph all visible damage, as well as undamaged areas of the home to demonstrate that it was well-maintained prior to the disaster.

Rob Yancey, a business insurance advisor in North Carolina, suggests sending photos to family or friends as an extra precaution. Additionally, take detailed photos that show the extent of the damage using rulers or yardsticks, advises Jerry Linebaugh, a financial services expert in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

It’s also crucial to take steps to prevent further damage, like boarding up windows or covering a damaged roof. Your policy likely requires you to take reasonable measures to prevent further damage, and you should save receipts for any related expenses.

When his sister and brother-in-law’s home flooded in 2016, Linebaugh recalls the adjuster denying over $30,000 of policy claim assistance, claiming that in one room, the water reached two feet while in the other rooms it was nearly a foot lower.

If it’s safe, securing your home and preventing additional damage is crucial, and it might involve boarding up windows or tarping a roof, according to Giulianti. He emphasizes that “Consumers are required to stop further damage from occurring to ensure coverage for their loss.”

In agreement, Ike Devji, the owner of Arizona Wealth Law, highlights that most policies require policyholders to take reasonable measures to prevent further damage after it’s been brought to their attention.

If emergency repairs are needed, make sure to save receipts for your insurer, suggests Jennifer Brault, Nationwide’s VP of personal lines property claims. However, don’t forget to take pictures before making any necessary repairs.

Reach out to your insurer

It’s best to contact your insurer as soon as possible to get a claim number issued, so you have a reference for all future calls and correspondence, advises Devji. “Without a claim number, you do not exist.”

According to Devji, keeping a written log of all phone calls and correspondence with your insurance agent or anyone involved in the claim can be helpful, as many insurance carriers intentionally obfuscate contact numbers to delay claims processing.

When describing the damage to your insurer or adjuster, Devji cautions against giving opinions on the scope of the damage and costs, as policyholders are not contractors. Underestimating the damage can later be used against you.

Understand your policy coverage

Reading your policy and assessing what your claim involves, especially if you have different types of insurance, is crucial. For example, depending on where you live, you may have flood insurance, earthquake insurance, and homeowners insurance.

Ensure that you’re making a claim on the right policy to avoid unnecessary delays. Linebaugh explains that while water entering your home from rising water seeping or running into your home is considered a flood claim, if a flying object breaks a window during a storm, causing water damage to your property, that falls under homeowners or renters insurance.

Choose Contractors Wisely

One of the most challenging parts of dealing with property damage is finding a reliable contractor to fix it. Insurance companies want to avoid overpaying, and you want quality work that won’t cost a fortune. However, be cautious when choosing a contractor, because your insurance policy may only cover the cost of the original damage, not any additional problems caused by a shoddy repair.

To avoid this, make sure your contractor is licensed, and get estimates from multiple contractors. Check online reviews and references, and don’t rely solely on recommendations from your insurer. Beware of unlicensed contractors who may show up at your door, as they are often scammers.

At Houston Restore Pros, we strive to provide our customers with the best service possible. 

Reasons Why Claims Get Denied

Submitting a claim promptly does not guarantee that it will be approved. There are several reasons why your claim might be denied, even if you act quickly. For instance, you may not have enough coverage, or your policy may only pay for a portion of the damages. If your home is affected by a natural disaster that your policy doesn’t cover, such as an earthquake, you won’t be compensated. Additionally, if you failed to take preventative measures to minimize further damage or attempted repairs without proper licensure, your claim may be denied. Finally, if a contractor who wasn’t licensed made the damage worse or you caused additional problems, you may not receive coverage.