Hurricane Preparedness

Be sure to have your insurance company contact information with you. You should have the insurance company name, your policy number, and the claims reporting number for the insurance company. Be sure to have this information for all policies, automobile as well as property policies. This information can be stored in your mobile phone.

 

Have the name and phone number of your insurance agency and agent in your mobile phone as well.

Call the insurance company directly to report a claim. Click here to view the claim reporting numbers for many insurance companies.

South Carolina Hurricane Evacuation Routes             http://sctraffic.org/evacroutes.html

 

Traffic Info on Evacuation Routes                               http://sctraffic.org/radio_stations.html

 

Preparing for a Hurricane                                             http://sctraffic.org/hurricaneinfo.html

NOAA National Weather Service                                  http://www.weather.gov

American Red Cross                                                     http://redcross.org

Federal Emergency Management Agency                   http://ready.gov

 


“WHAT’S COVERED?”

 

17 Questions Clients Frequently Ask Following A Disaster

 

 

Here are some suggested responses to clients’ 17 most frequently asked questions

following a natural disaster.  Keep in mind that these are general responses; each situation is different, and policies may have different terms.

Read the policy forms attached to your policy!

 

 

1. I’ve reported my claim, now what should I do?

 

o   Take all necessary steps such as securing property, temporarily boarding windows, covering damaged roof areas, drying carpets and personal property, etc. to prevent further damage.  If you do not and additional damage results, the additional damage may not be covered.  Your exact responsibilities are stated in your Homeowners policy and, in part, states “These duties must be performed …. Protect the property from further damage…” This is found in Section 1 Conditions, Paragraph 2 Duties After Loss.

 

Ø  For commercial properties, basically the same rule applies as in a homeowner’s policy.

 

The NFIP Flood policy does not include the above language but rather states “you must … separate the damaged and undamaged property, putting it in the best possible order so that we may examine it.”

 

o   If you have water in your house or commercial building, you should endeavor to remove the water and dry everything as quickly as possible. A list of Catastrophe Restoration companies is listed at www.ctlowndes.com under the claims tab.

 

o   You should make reasonable temporary repairs but do not begin any permanent repairs or dispose of any damaged property before an adjuster sees the damage.  In the case of perishable items (such as food) that must be disposed of, first make a list and take photographs to substantiate your claim.  Otherwise, some damaged items may not be covered.

 

o   Be sure to keep all receipts for emergency repairs or water removal. If your home is uninhabitable and you move out, keep all receipts for items that might qualify for additional living expenses (water, ice, or lodging charges, etc.). For a business unable to operate, keep similar records for the business interruption claim.

 

o   Expenses incurred due to an evacuation are not covered.

 

o   Please be patient. With potentially thousands of claims, adjusters will have their hands full,

 

 

 

 

2.   Is there anything I can do to speed the claims process?

 

An adjuster will contact you as soon as possible but priority will be given to those policyholders who have the most severe losses. Keep in mind that larger claims likely will be settled in stages, not all at once.

           

While waiting for the adjuster:

 

¨      Take pictures of the damaged property and gather any pictures showing the property before the loss.

 

¨      Get repair estimates from local contractors (preferably at least two), if possible, for the adjuster to review.

 

¨      List all damaged personal property, including each item’s description, age, original cost, place of purchase, and estimated replacement cost.  Include any receipts or canceled checks for these items. This is a difficult task so just do the best you can.

 

3.   What if my home is so damaged that I cannot stay in it?

 

·         Most homeowners and dwelling fire policy forms provide coverage for additional living expenses or loss of use (Coverage D in your policy.).  Most policies will reimburse you for “any necessary increase” over and above your normal living costs (such as lodging, for example, since it is over and above your mortgage or rent payment) if your home is “not fit to live in” as a result of a covered peril and you must temporarily relocate.  But most policies will reimburse you for only those food expenses over and above what you would normally pay for food. “Not fit to live in” does NOT include being without electrical power unless there are extenuating circumstances.

 

·         You must keep all receipts in order for the expenses to be considered a part of the loss.  The expenses must be in line with normal living expenses and must be a necessary and direct result of the loss.

 

·         If you are prohibited from using your home by Civil Authority “…as a result of direct physical damage to neighboring premises…” the policy will pay your additional living expenses, usually for up to 2 weeks.

 

 

Most homeowners policies limit recovery under “additional living expenses” to 20% percent of the amount of coverage on the home itself. 

 

Old Dwelling Fire policies [DP-3 (7/88)] limit recovery under “rental value and additional living expenses” to 10% percent of the amount of coverage on the home itself.  This coverage is additional insurance.

 

New Dwelling Fire policies [DP-3 (7/14 &12/02)] limit recovery under “additional living expenses” or “fair rental value” to 20% percent of the amount of coverage on the home itself.  This coverage is additional insurance.

 

Old Dwelling Fire policy [DP-1 (7/88)] limit recovery under “rental value and additional living expenses” to 10% percent of the amount of coverage on the home itself, but this payment reduces the Coverage A limit.

 

New Dwelling Fire policies [DP-1 (7/14)] limits recovery under “additional living expenses” or “fair rental value” to 20% percent of the amount of coverage on the home itself.  This coverage is paid on a proportional basis.

 

On a Mobile Home policy, a limit for Additional living expenses must be shown on the policy declaration page.

 

On a Commercial policy, a limit for Additional living expenses must be shown on the policy declaration page. Exception, some BOP policies automatically include the coverage.

 

4.  What coverage is there for trees that are down?

 

Standard dwelling and homeowner policies usually do not provide coverage for damage to trees by wind unless the fallen tree has damaged insured property. The policy states “We will pay…for the removal of one or more trees fallen…provided the tree(s):

a.       Damage(s) a covered structure or

b.      Do(es) not damage a covered structure but

(1)   Block(s) a driveway …

(2)   Block(s) a ramp…designed to assist a handicapped person…”

 

Coverage under a homeowners policy is usually limited to $1,000 with a maximum of $500 per tree.

 

Dwelling Fire policies, SCWHUA policies, and NFIP Flood policies provide NO coverage for trees.

 

Commercial policies generally do not provide coverage for trees.

 

5.  Power was out for 5 days and the food in my refrigerator / freezer spoiled.  Is it covered?

 

         Some policies provide limited food spoilage coverage.  Your adjuster will determine how

         much coverage may apply, if any.

 

             

6.  When power finally came back on, a power surge damaged some of my electrical equipment.  Is this damage covered?

               

                Most homeowner’s policies provide coverage under “Sudden and Accidental Damage

            From Artificially Generated Electrical Current.” But coverage doesn’t apply to loss of

            “tubes, transistors, electrical components or circuitry that are a part of appliances.

            Fixtures, computers,..”  Therefore, damage from a power surge would not be covered

           for such property as televisions, VCR’s, computers, or similar items.

 

            This is a preventable claim. It is best to unplug such items before the power goes off

            (before you evacuate) or while the power is off, then plug them back in after the power is

            restored.

 

7.  The adjuster was here last week and I still have not gotten my check.  How long is this going to take?

 

o   Probably longer than you might expect! Following the visit with you, the adjuster must complete very detailed paperwork on the loss and submit it to the carrier for review. If the adjuster has a heavy claim load, which is normal after a disaster, there is often a delay in completing the paperwork (adjusters generally do their paperwork in the evenings, after the interviews and inspections).  There’s also a delay at the insurance company as it reviews the many claims coming in at once.

 

o   Be sure to obtain the adjuster’s telephone numbers and/or email address and also the phone number/email address of your insurance company’s claim department.

 

o   Your insurance agent to check with the adjuster to find out exactly when the paperwork was submitted to the carrier.  If the paperwork has been received, the carrier may able to provide a status report as to when it will issue the claims draft to you.

o   Some companies allow you to check your claim status on their website. Your agent can help you with this.

o   In communicating with your adjuster, email is the most efficient method.

 

8.  I’ve just received my claim check and it’s not as much as I expected.

 

o   Remember your policy deductible has been applied. 

 

o   Another factor might be because of policy terms that require settlement on an actual cash basis, to be followed by a separate payment for replacement costs when repairs or replacement are completed.  See the Loss Settlement paragraph under Section 1 – Conditions of most policies.

    “Once actual repair or replacement is complete…” the company will pay the balance   

    of the claim. You will need to provide the adjuster with proof that repairs have been

     made or copies of receipts for replacement of personal items.

 

o   Otherwise we will need to get the settlement details from the adjuster to be able to properly answer your question.

 

9.  What’s the difference between actual cash value and replacement cost coverage?

 

o   If the policy indicates that the settlement will be on a replacement cost basis, then payment will be made for the actual cost, at today’s prices, to repair or replace, limited only by the amount of coverage that was purchased

 

o   If the adjustment basis is actual cash value, settlement will be made by determining the replacement cost at today’s prices, less a reasonable amount for depreciation, age, or obsolescence.

 

 

10.  Why is my mortgage company shown on my claim check?

           

o   Claim checks must be made payable to the named insured and to the mortgage company, if there is  one listed on the policy, in order to protect the interest of all parties. Your contract with the mortgage company requires this be done. You insurance policy does not address the issue.

o   We  make two suggestions:

(1) Make sure the correct mortgagee is listed on your policy. Mortgages are transferred and sold and mortgage companies are bought and merged and your insurance agent may not have been notified.

(2) Contact your mortgage company prior to your claim being settled to make sure you understand their procedure for handling a claim check.

 

11.  I have a flood policy through NFIP. What does it cover?

 

·         The NFIP policy covers only one peril: damage from flooding (including rising waters, mudslides and certain damages from erosion). The surge or wall of water associated with a hurricane is considered flooding.

·         Flood policies do not automatically cover contents.  You must have purchased this coverage.

·         All flood policies apply a separate deductible to building losses and loss of contents

·         The flood policy also provides $30,000 coverage for Increased Cost of Construction. This coverage is helpful if building codes require your home to be built differently when rebuilt. However this coverage applies only if the home has been previously flooded and a claim was made.

·         Only one building may be insured under a flood policy. Thus any building on your premises not attached to the dwelling is not insured. Exception, a detached garage is covered but only if used for storing vehicles.

 

Types of property that are NOT covered under a dwelling flood policy:

 

¨      Personal Property in the open                                                                                                                                                                                                       

¨      Trees, plants, shrubs

¨      Driveways

¨      Foundations

¨      Underground structures like a septic tank

¨      Fences, seawalls and bulkheads

¨      Piers

¨      Docks

¨      Walkways and decks located outside the perimeter, exterior walls of the building.

¨      Hot tubs and swimming pools, and their equipment

 

·         For some types of property – jewelry, furs, silver, gold, fine arts, and similar items – only a limited amount of coverage ($250, for example) is provided.

·         Coverage on personal property below the elevated floor of a Post FIRM dwelling is limited to window type a/c units, clothes washers and dryers, food freezer and food in the freezer.

·         For commercial properties, the General Policy form is fairly similar.

·         Reimbursement for additional living expenses or loss of rents is not provided under a flood policy.

·         Replacement coverage is provided under a flood policy for dwellings only if the home is your primary residence and if it’s insured for at least 80 percent of its replacement cost (or the maximum available under the NFIP program, $250,000).

·         All other losses are adjusted on an actual cash value basis, including losses to contents and to other items such as carpeting, antennas, awnings, appliances, and miscellaneous outdoor equipment.

 

 

12.  I have a separate wind and hail policy with South Carolina Wind and Hail Underwriting Association (SCWHUA). What does it cover?

 

·         This policy covers 2 perils: physical loss to property caused by wind and by hail

·         Not all SCWHUA policies cover building and contents.

·         Loss of Use and Increased Cost of Construction may be added to the policy.

·         SCWHUA policies apply a separate deductible for Building losses, losses to Contents, and Loss of Use losses.

·         The deductible for a non-named storm wind loss is 1% of the amount of insurance.

·         The deductible for a Named Storm loss is a higher deductible ranging from 2% to 10%.

·         The loss of use deductible vary from 10 days to 55 days depending on the building deductible.

·         Other Structures not listed on the policy are insured up to 10 % of coverage A.  This payment REDUCES the coverage A dwelling limit.

·         Replacement cost coverage on the dwelling is applicable if a premium has been charged and the dwelling is the principle residence for the insured and the dwelling is insured for at least 80% of its full replacement cost. Form WHP 10 is attached to the policy.

·         All other losses are adjusted on an actual cash basis.

·         Increased Cost of Construction (ICC) is available only for a dwelling and pays for the increased cost to bring the home in compliance with newer construction standards.

 

One caution – The SCWHUA policy does not provide for loss caused by “wind driven rain”. The SCWHUA policy “will not pay for loss …to the interior of any dwelling…caused by rain… whether driven by wind or not, unless the direct force of wind…damages the dwelling…, causing an opening in a roof or wall and the rain…enters through this opening.”  And when the standard wind/hail exclusion form is attached to the homeowners policy, the form excludes a “loss caused directly or indirectly from windstorm or hail”. Thus the homeowners/dwelling fire policy will NOT insure for wind driven rain (an indirect situation).  This type event usually only occurs when a strong (hurricane) wind is blowing the rain almost perpendicular to the dwelling and the rain enters through openings around windows, under doors, through vents, etc.

 

Types of property NOT covered under a SCWHUA include:

 

§  Pilings, docks and boathouses

§  Boardwalks, dune walks, ramps

§  Trees

§  Fences, seawalls, and bulkheads

§  Hot tubs and swimming pools, and their equipment

§  Paint applied to exterior of building

 

The commercial form of the SCWHUA policy is very similar to the above.

 

13.  What is my storm deductible?

 

                Different companies have different type deductibles that apply to the storm loss. The deductible may be referred to by such terms as “wind & hail” deductible, “hurricane” deductible, “tropical cyclone” deductible, or “named storm” deductible.

 

            Read the endorsement stating the terms of your deductible carefully. For example, a “hurricane” deductible may apply when a Hurricane Warning has been posted for the area and yet the storm may never gain hurricane status.

 

           These deductibles refer to a percent that is usually a percent of the amount of insurance on the dwelling or building. Sometimes, the deductible applies only to the building. Some- times, it applies to both building and contents. Obviously, it is important to read the endorsement that is attached to the particular policy.

 

            The policy includes examples of how the deductible is applied.

 

              

           

14.  What should I know about the Loss Assessment coverage on my HO-6, Condominium Unit Owners Policy?

          

              The Loss Assessment coverage will pay your share of any loss assessment charged against you by the condo regime or association as a result of a loss that is caused by a peril covered by your HO-6 policy. Most companies provide an automatic $1,000 coverage.  In many cases, you can increase the basic loss assessment limit on your policy to a higher amount.

       

           The important thing to note is that most insurance companies place a $1,000 limit on any assessment that results from a deductible in the insurance purchased by the regime or association of property owners. This limit usually cannot be increased. Thus, if your condo regime has purchased a property policy with a high wind deductible, for example, and you are assessment $5,000 after a hurricane loss as your share of the high deductible, your policy will only pay $1,000.

 

15. My adjuster has sent me a Proof of Loss to Sign. The final amount of my damages has not been determined as yet. Should I sign the document?

 

First of all, what is a Proof of Loss?   A Proof of Loss is a statement taken from you, the insured, by the insurance company, regarding the details of your loss. The insurer uses the information gained to determine their liability for the loss. .More than one Proof of loss may be filed for the same claim.

Specifically, the purpose of a Proof of Loss is to provide the insurer with specific information pertaining to the formal claim of damages. The policy will determine what must be in a Proof of Loss and most often includes:

·         The amount of loss claimed;

·         The documents that support the amount of loss claimed;

  • The parties claiming the loss under the policy;
  • The date and cause of the loss; and
  • The people who have an interest in the claim.

Yes, you should sign and return the Proof of Loss.

Your policy requires the Proof of Loss be signed and returned within 60 days of the company’s request. The adjuster will normally assist you with preparing the Proof of Loss. Signing a Proof of Loss does not waive your right to make supplemental claims or to amend the original proof of loss.

Further the policy states that your “Loss will be payable 60 days after we receive your proof of loss and reach an agreement with you.”

 

16. I have lost touch with my adjuster. What shall I do?

 

Call your agent. When a catastrophic event occurs, adjusters are brought in from all over the country. Some will only stay in the area for a few weeks. Thus, it is possible that your claim was reassigned to another adjuster. Your agent can find out and obtain new contact information.

 

17. My claim has been settled and the contractor has found other damage we did not know about. Can my claim be re-opened?

 

Yes. Contact your agent or the insurance company to get the process started.

 

 I know the dollar amount of my claim will be less than my deductible. Should I file the claim with the insurance company?

 

·         It is always a good idea to file the claim with the company.

 

·         Filing a catastrophe type claim does not affect your relationship with the insurance company. Your policy will not be non-renewed or have the premium increased because of such a claim unless the insurance company stops writing insurance for every policy holder in the area.

 

·         It is also possible there is more damage than you are aware and the policy does require you to “give written notice … as soon as practical”.

 

·         If you have a wind policy with SCWHUA, you definitely should report all wind claims to the company because the SCWHUA deductible is an aggregate deductible for the policy term. SCWHUA does not penalize you for filing a claim.

 


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