When a natural disaster strikes your property, insurers say the priority is to be safe.
Toby Hedges, an agent with Shelter Insurance in Tupelo, said there are several steps homeowners and business owners need to take.
“You need to report your claim to your insurance company via phone or online as soon as possible, but make sure your family is safe and OK first,” said Hedges, whose office fielded dozens of calls Tuesday.
“Then you need to do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, as long as it’s safe.”
To help with the claim, taking photos is essential. And if you need to spend money on tarps or other material to protect your property, keep the receipts.
“If you need to stay in a hotel, keep the receipts,” he said, emphasizing that documentation is critical in processing insurance claims.
Also, patience is critical. With so many claims being processed, it does take time for insurance companies to review. They’ll also prioritize claims, which could further delay your claim.
Other tips from the Mississippi Insurance Commissioner’s office:
• Notify creditors if bills have been lost or you’re unable to pay.
• Ask your utility company to stop billing if your home is unlivable or has been destroyed.
• Be sure you cooperate fully with the insurance company. Ask what documents, forms and data you will need to file a claim. Keep a diary of all conversations with insurance companies, creditors or relief agencies.
• Be certain to give your insurance company all the information it needs. Incorrect or incomplete information will only cause a delay in processing your claim.
• Inventory your home or business for damaged or lost items before your adjustor arrives. This will speed up your claim process.
• Be wary of contractors who demand upfront payment before work is initiated or payment in full before work is completed. If the contractor needs payment to buy supplies, go with the contractor and pay the supplier directly.
• Get more than one bid. Ask for at least three references. Check with the Better Business Bureau about the contractor. Ask for proof of necessary licenses, building permits, insurance and bonding. Record the license plate number and driver’s license number of the contractor.
• Work with a qualified tax expert to find out about tax breaks you may be eligible for because of your losses.
• If you have any questions or problems with your claim or insurance company, contact the Mississippi Insurance Department Consumer Services Division at (601) 359-2453 or (800) 562 2957.
Hedges also said reviewing your insurance policies also is a good idea to ensure you have the proper coverage.
“It’s too late after a disaster to find out what you have or don’t have,” he said.