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ISSUED 11/05/2009 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DOCUMENTING PROPERTY LOSSES AND FILING CLAIMS QUICKLY ARE KEY TO ACHIEVING SETTLEMENTS AFTER A WINTER STORM HITS

Prepared Consumers Better Able to Get Satisfactory Settlements

Recovering from a disaster is never easy, but there are steps homeowners can take to get back on their feet faster. The winter storm season is approaching, so consumers should be aware of damage assessment and claims filing tips that will help them should they need to file insurance claims after a severe snow or ice storm.

“It’s important to document storm damage and to report it to your insurance company as soon as possible. Understanding what is needed to accomplish those tasks will go a long way in helping consumers obtain faster settlements,” Insurance Superintendent James Wrynn said.

Wrynn offered these tips to homeowners:

Assessing damage after a storm

  • It is always a good idea for consumers to photograph and/or videotape the extent of the damage caused to the property. Videotape and photographs are often a good way of visually documenting the extent of a property owner’s losses.
  • Homeowners should make repairs needed to prevent further damage from occurring to a home, including covering broken windows or leaking roofs. They should not make permanent repairs until after receiving written approval from their insurance company or the company’s authorized representative.
  • Keep all receipts for any necessary inspections or repairs. Such expenses might be reimbursed under the homeowner’s policy.
  • Keep personal property that has been damaged until after the insurance settlement.

Filing the claim

  • Homeowners should file claims as quickly as possible by contacting their insurance company or agent. It is always a good idea to follow-up by submitting the claim in writing.
  • Cooperate fully with the insurance company and provide the information requested. Providing incorrect or incomplete information may delay the process.
  • Always keep detailed notes about conversations with the insurance company or agent. These notes should include the name and contact information of the person spoken to, the date and time of the conversation, and details about what was said.

Claims settlements

  • Consumers should ask the insurance company for the specific language in the policy that is in question if there is a disagreement about the claim settlement.
  • If a disagreement results in a claim denial, consumers should make sure they obtain a written letter form the insurance company explaining the reason for the denial. The letter should again state the specific language in the policy under which the claim is being denied.
  • Consumers who cannot come to an agreement with the company have several options, including the “appraisal” process outlined in their policy, litigation, or contacting the Insurance Department to file a complaint.

Contact the Insurance Department

Consumers who wish to file a complaint may do so online using the Insurance Department’s website, http://www.ins.state.ny.us. Consumers may also file complaints by contacting the Department’s Consumer Services Bureau from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday toll-free at 800-342-3736.

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