Most Floridians know what to do before a hurricane, but too few know what to do after a hurricane or tropical storm damages their property. This guide will help consumers understand the insurance claims process.
After a hurricane
- Contact your independent insurance agent or insurance company as quickly as
possible to report your losses. He or she will assign the loss immediately to a
qualified adjuster, who will call you as soon as possible. It takes time to
process a large number of claims after a disaster, so please be patient. If
yours is a serious case, tell your agent. Insurance companies schedule
adjusters; the most serious losses receive priority treatment.
- Assess your situation and put safety first. Don’t proceed
until you are sure a room or house is safe to enter. If you must relocate
temporarily, give your agent your temporary address.
- Once your safety is secured, make any repairs necessary to
prevent further property damage. These might include covering breaks in roofs,
walls, or windows with plywood, canvas, or other waterproof material. Do not
have permanent repairs made without first consulting your agent or meeting with
the adjuster; unauthorized repairs may not be reimbursed.
- Keep all receipts for expenditures you’ve made to
temporarily repair damage or to estimate the extent of damage.
Make a list and get estimates
- Use your pre-disaster home inventory (you have one, right?) to help prepare a
detailed accounting of all damaged or destroyed personal property for the
adjuster. (Be sure to keep a copy.) Your list should be as complete as possible
and include descriptions (with quantities) of items damaged or destroyed, date
of purchase or approximate age, cost at time of purchase, and estimated
- Collect cancelled checks, invoices, appraisals, or other
papers that might assist the adjuster in determining the value of the destroyed
- Secure a detailed estimate for permanent repairs from a
reliable contractor and give it to the adjuster when he or she arrives. The
estimate should be detailed and specific, and include the extent of the work
and a breakdown of repair and replacement costs. Do not give the contractor the
go-ahead to begin repairs until you have reviewed the damage with the adjuster.
- Keep a written record of everyone you talk to about your
insurance claim, including the date of the conversation and a summary of what
- Take photos or video of the damage to help with the
presentation of your claim and assist the adjuster in his evaluation.
- Even if home or business furnishings and other items look
like “total losses,” do not get rid of them until after they have been examined
by an adjuster.
Mitigate further damage
- Clean wooden furniture and floors to avoid further damage.
Avoid rubbing in abrasives such as ash, plaster, or wallboard particles that
might have fallen on the furniture. Don’t leave wood furniture in the sun or it
will warp. Scrub woodwork and floors with a stiff brush.
- Draperies, linens, and clothing should be laundered.
Upholstered furniture should be examined. You may be able to mitigate further
damage by cleaning and drying it; if you plan to have this done by an
upholsterer or dry cleaner, talk to your agent first to determine if this can
or should be done before or after the adjuster arrives.
- Metal objects, such as guns, drapery rods, and electric
motors in home appliances, should be dried and rubbed, or sprayed with oil to
prevent corrosion. Radios, TVs, and other electronic systems should also be
dried out, but not oiled.
- If your car has been damaged or submerged in a flood, move
it to high ground and let it dry out. Do not attempt to start or operate it
until it is thoroughly dry.
Information provided by the Florida Association of Insurance Agents as a public service.