Tips for Filing an Insurance Claim

August 29, 2017

Tens of thousands of insurance claims are expected following Hurricane Harvey. The now-tropical storm is predicted to cause up to $10 billion in property damage in Texas. Catastrophic flooding along Texas’ coastline could cause 30,000 residents in the state to need shelters, FEMA predicted Monday.

Many homeowners and renters may soon learn that standard insurance policies don’t often cover groundwater flooding either. Owners must get separate coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program or a private insurance company for that. (Read more: Harvey Sparks Flood Insurance Disaster)

For those who are covered, here are a few tips for filing a claim:

  • Contact your insurance company immediately. Insurers will likely want to visit the damaged area, if they’re able to, when you’re reporting a claim. Homeowners need to get a claim number. Depending on the extent of the claim, an insurer adjuster may take anywhere from a week to six months to contact you, according to HouseLogic, a consumer website produced by the National Association of REALTORS®. 
  • Document losses. Take pictures and videos of the damages. If possible, include the date of purchases and the estimated value of damaged items, John Salter, a certified financial planner in Lubbock, Texas, told USA Today.
  • Keep track of what you spend. Owners making any immediate repairs to secure their home should remember to keep receipts. Also, keep any receipts for hotels or meals while you’re away, if your home is uninhabitable.
  • Get everything in writing. Keep a record of all communications with the insurance company, the adjuster, contractors, and others. Be sure to log the dates, times, and details of any phone conversations. Keep copies of email correspondence. Ask for any estimates in writing.
  • Sign up for text alerts. Insurance companies often use SMS text alerts to keep you updated on the status of your claim. Companies will likely send you an alert when you first file a claim, when your estimate is available, and when the payment has been sent.

Source: “After Hurricane Harvey: Tips for Filing an Insurance Claim,” USA Today (Aug. 28, 2017) and “‘A Very Heavy Lift’: Harvey Will Drive 30,000 to Shelters in Texas, FEMA Says,” USA Today (Aug. 28,2 017) and the National Association of REALTORS®