With the increase of devastating weather events, like the recent flooding in Tennessee and Hurricane Ida making landfall in Louisiana, there are certain things you can do to stay safe and receive a fair insurance settlement for damage to your home or business.
Document Storm Damage
It’s important to document your property when moving into a new home or before a storm hits. This way, you are prepared with photos and videos of what your property looked like should something horrific, like a hurricane, tornado or other severe weather events, occur. Even if you missed this step, you must document any damage after a storm. As you inspect your property and home or business, take photos and videos of the aftermath. You can easily do this with a smartphone camera. This way, when you submit a claim to your insurance company or FEMA, you will be able to show the damage to your property clearly.
When to Submit an Insurance Claim & Apply for FEMA Support
Immediately. If you have damage to your home and property following a devastating weather event, you should first submit a claim through your homeowner’s insurance. However, if you don’t have insurance, your insurance may not cover all of the damage or is delayed, applying to FEMA can help cover the gap in coverage.
With the flooding in Tennessee recently, President Biden declared a major disaster in Tennessee and most recently in Louisiana following Hurricane Ida. When a major disaster is declared, federal aid can be provided, and FEMA will be called in to support the area. Federal assistance includes grants for temporary housing and repairs to homes, loans to cover uninsured losses and other programs to help people and business owners to recover.
After applying to FEMA, you will receive a mailed letter or electronic correspondence highlighting whether you are eligible for assistance, how the assistance is to be used, how much assistance you will receive, and how to appeal the decision if you do not agree with it.
How a Lawyer Can Help Storm Victims
If you’ve submitted a claim to your homeowner’s insurance company and don’t feel that you and the insurance claims adjuster are on the same page, you may want to consult a lawyer specializing in storm damage insurance claims. Consulting a legal expert can help ensure that you and your family receive a fair settlement for your insurance claim. Storm damage lawyers can help educate you on the details of your insurance policy and the rights that come along with the policy. They also can assist you with the insurance claims process and make sure you are treated fairly.
In claims where the fault is difficult to establish, it’s best to consult a knowledgeable storm insurance claims attorney. Many legal authorities advise that you should contact a lawyer before your insurance company. You may avoid issues with your insurance claim by speaking with a legal expert before contacting your insurance company.
If you find yourself with a complex and expensive claim, speak to an attorney prior to submitting a claim. This will help ensure that you are starting with your best foot forward. Insurance claims, especially ones around a complex claim, can be confusing and difficult to navigate. Having an attorney on your side will help reduce the stress and anxiety associated with an insurance claim after a devastating storm.
How to Avoid Being Scammed After a Storm
After a serious weather event like flooding, tornado or hurricane, you may be approached by people trying to scam you when it comes to property repairs and applying for storm benefits. Here are some common scams that people may use:
- Asking you to pay upfront fees to help you get loans, benefits or services. No government charges application fees for benefits or services.
- By posing as government employees, bank employees, law enforcement and insurance adjusters. Confirm that those assisting you are who they say they are by contacting the agencies to verify identities.
- Limited time offers. These offers put pressure on you to decide on the spot.
- Fake accommodation listings. If you’re looking for a place to stay while your home is being repaired, check out the temporary accommodation first. If the owner cannot show you the property beforehand, it’s a sign of a scam.
Home Safety After a Storm
Many times power outages are associated with extreme weather. Should you lose power and you have a generator, use caution. Do not use a gas-powered generator inside your home, garage, basement, or near a vent, door or window. Generators should only be used outside. Ensure that your generator is placed at least 15 feet away from buildings.
Remember, winter storms also tend to knock out power. It is extremely dangerous to use a kerosene or gas heater inside your home. As the heater provides heat, it emits carbon monoxide – a silent, odorless gas that can injure or even kill you and your loved ones.
Under some circumstances of power outages, a certified electrical inspector might be required to inspect your home to assess potential damage. In Tennessee’s recent flooding, this was especially true. If floodwaters or storm surge impact your property and repairs are needed, you should work with a licensed electrician and your local power company to make the necessary repairs. If water has not impacted the electrical equipment in your home, you may not need an electrical inspection, but you will need to be patient and wait for the local power company to restore service.
Tips for Hiring Contractors
When your property has storm damage that requires repairs, be sure to hire contractors that you can trust. If the total cost of repairs is more than $25,000, a contractor’s license is required. Ask potential contractors to see their licenses. Contact multiple contractors for several bids, and ask contractors to provide a list of services and costs before beginning. And, be careful of contractors offering door-to-door services – especially when they demand payment before completing work.
After an extreme weather event, you may be left looking at your property, wondering how you and your loved ones are going to make repairs to your home or business. While insurance and FEMA assistance are available, don’t forget that having access to an attorney may also help streamline this process. Anything you can do to speed up the process and help reduce the stress and anxiety can make storm recovery not feel so overwhelming.