If water from a tropical storm or burst pipe damages your home, your first thought might be to get rid of the water and clean up the mess. This seems like the logical thing to do, but you could find that your cleanup efforts end up costing you in the end.
Your insurance company could very well deny coverage if you remove items damaged by water or repair anything before their representative has assessed the damage. So be cautious after a disaster and follow the steps I’ve outlined in this blog post.
1. Notify Your Insurance Company
It’s a good idea to call your insurance company as soon as possible after a disaster, since you want them to get started on assessing and paying for repairs. Be sure to have your policy handy so you can give them your policy number and check your coverage. Also, ask them for guidance on what steps to take to ensure the safety of your home and get the damage repaired.
Take the time to read and understand your coverage. Most policies will cover water damage from accidental or sudden incidents, but not damage from poor maintenance or flooding. Keep this in mind when you communicate with your insurance company and don’t refer to your water damage problem as a “flood.”
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a detailed explanation of the claims process, along with any applicable deadlines and pertinent contact information. In addition, make sure you understand the deductibles, limitations and exclusions of your policy so you have a good idea of what to expect from your insurance company.
2. Document the Damage to Your Property
Having before and after pictures is the best way to show the full extent of the damage water did to your property. However, if you don’t have pictures from before the damage occurred, pictures and video of the damaged areas taken before you’ve moved or repaired anything is still useful.
In addition to photos, make sure you keep all damaged items so you can show them to the representative from your insurance company. A complete list of all damaged items, including make, date of purchase, and cost, is also a good idea. The more information you can provide, the better.
This goes for a description of what caused the damage as well. If your new dishwasher leaked and ruined your hardwood floor, a large section of your kitchen cupboards, and the contents of those cupboards, your insurance company might well want to know the name and number of the person who installed the dishwasher, as well as the date of purchase and purchase price.
3. Try to Prevent Further Damage
While waiting for an adjuster to come and inspect your property, you shouldn’t throw anything away, change anything, or make any permanent repairs. However, you do want to do anything you can to prevent further damage and save as many of your things as possible.
Your insurance policy will not cover you for damage to items that could have been protected, so it’s to your advantage to make what’s considered emergency repairs, such as removing standing water from a room or tarping holes in the roof. You should, however, document these emergency repairs, keep all receipts for repair-related expenditures, and hang on to everything.
4. File a Water Damage Claim with Your Insurance Company
As soon as you have reviewed your insurance policy, documented all of the damage, and have receipts for emergency repairs, you should file a claim with your insurance company. They will send an adjuster to inspect the damage to your property, and then inform you in writing if your policy covers the water damage or not.
5. Keep Track of All Communications with Your Insurance Company
When dealing with a property damage claim, it’s also a good idea to keep a file of all of your communications with your insurance company. Record the date and time of every call as well as the name of the person with whom you spoke and a summary of what you talked about. Copy or scan all written documents and keep all email messages in a folder so you can access them easily.
6. Talk with a Florida Property Damage Attorney
If your claim is denied or delayed or the insurance company’s settlement amount is not satisfactory, talking with a Florida property damage attorney should be your next step. Attorneys understand how insurance companies work and know what your rights are as a policyholder. We can talk persuasively with insurance company representatives and help you get compensated fairly for all of the water damage your home sustained.
By all means, make sure you’re working with an experienced Florida property damage attorney who listens to your concerns and fights aggressively for your rights.