Experts: Know your insurance policy before disaster strikes

- Another bout of severe weather over the weekend should serve as a reminder to have an emergency plan in place - and that includes your insurance information.

Undoubtedly, the people whose homes were in the path of Sunday’s tornado are dealing with the unsavory task of filing a damage report.

But it doesn’t have to be a mess. And, you don’t have to wait until after a storm hits to prepare yourself.

Here’s how to get ready now:

HOME INVENTORY

It has never been easier (and more important) to snap photos of your stuff. Grab your smartphone and take pictures in every room. Take wide shots first, then focus on specific items that an adjuster might want you to prove you owned. Videos might be helpful too - with narration. Either upload photos and video to your cloud account or back them up to your home computer.

ALTERNATE HOUSING

Take some time to think about where you would go if your roof collapsed and your home were condemned. A friend’s place? A family member’s home? A hotel? Some (but not necessarily all) homeowner’s policies include reimbursement for emergency lodging. Learn more about what your policy covers when you call your agent (keep reading).

REVIEW YOUR COVERAGE

Double check that your home is, in fact, covered. Call your agent and have a frank talk.

Also, check your policy for coverage on outdoor items such as your fence, shed, or pool cage. Many policies follow a formula for assigning them a value, but don't make any assumptions such as the formula's accuracy.

It’s equally imperative to know your deductible. Don’t let a $100 to $5,000 obligation, depending on the policy, surprise you during clean-up.

Also, take a picture of your policy for safe keeping.

ADD YOUR AGENT

He or she is unlikely to be your next “ICE” contact, but it is important to add your insurance agent’s phone number to your contact list. While cleaning up after a disaster, simple tasks (like locating a phone numbers) might become difficult. Find their number now and add them as a contact today, so you won’t have to waste valuable time later looking for it after a storm.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

A rough timeline for your claim is laid out in Florida law. In fact, the legislature even put a Bill of Rights on the books. Here are the essential underpinnings:

  1. You should receive notice that the insurer has receive your claim within 14 days.
  2. You should have a decision whether you claim will be paid, denied, or investigated within 30 days.
  3. You should receive payment of the undisputed portion of your claim within 90 days.

These are guidelines that govern a claim not in dispute. If there are questions about the damage, your losses, or how much you are to be paid, each of these steps might take longer. If you and your insurer cannot agree, The Florida Department if Financial Services will provide free mediation services.

Click the link below to learn more about the Bill of Rights.

BILL OF RIGHTS: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0600-0699/0627/Sections/0627.7142.html

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