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By Eric Dinallo
Superintendent of the New York State Insurance Department

With summer’s end and the tropical storm season upon us, this is a great time for New Yorkers to take common-sense steps so they are prepared in the event of a major storm. There are simple things you can do now to make filing insurance claims after a storm easier for you and your family. The New York State Insurance Department offers these tips:

Create a Home Inventory

To make the claims process easier if you suffer a loss, it is important to have a complete list of your belongings. This should include such information as brand names, prices, purchase dates, model numbers and receipts, and it should be supplemented by photos. A simple-to-use home inventory checklist can be downloaded from the Insurance Department website,

If you don't have time to create a comprehensive inventory, videotape and/or photograph every room using a digital or disposable camera. The more detail you include, the better. Make sure to open drawers and closets. Make two identical copies of your inventory. Send one to an easily reachable friend or relative who lives in another location. Take the second copy with you if a storm forces you to leave your home.

Collect Your Insurance Information

Keep copies of your insurance policies and insurance cards with your inventory. Make a list of your policy numbers, your insurance company and insurance agent's phone numbers and emergency hotline numbers, website addresses and mailing addresses. You may wish to consider storing this information in the glove box of your car.

Review Your Policies

Review your insurance policies to make sure you know what is and what is not covered. If you have questions, contact your insurance agent or company. Remember that flood damage is not covered by a standard homeowners or renters insurance policy.

After a Storm

The time following a natural disaster can be confusing and stressful, but it is important to file insurance claims as quickly as possible. Contact your insurance company and/or agent with your policy number and other relevant information. Take photos/video of property damage before clean-up or repairs. After you have documented the damage, make repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property. Do not make permanent repairs until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have agreed on repair costs.

Cooperate fully with the insurance company. Keep a diary of all conversations you have with the company and your agent, including names, times and dates of the calls or visits. Be sure to give your insurance company all the information it needs. Incorrect or incomplete information may delay claims processing. Be prepared to negotiate if the first offer made by the insurance company does not meet your expectations.

In the event you are unfortunate enough to experience a major loss such as a fire or severe windstorm which has badly damaged or destroyed your home, and you are not in a position to negotiate a settlement with your company, you may want to consult an attorney or call a licensed public adjuster to act on your behalf with your insurance company.

Public adjusters are licensed by the Insurance Department. They represent you and not the insurance company. They will help you in taking inventory of your loss, securing your home from vandalism, contacting your insurance company, advising you on the extent of your coverage and help you secure the services needed to repair or rebuild you home. They will negotiate on your behalf with the adjuster from the insurance company.

A public adjuster may not charge a fee more than 12.5% of the recovery amount and must get a signed compensation agreement from you in which the amount of compensation is clearly stated. Such agreement may be cancelled up to midnight of the third business day after the date on which you have signed the compensation agreement. In addition, public adjusters may not solicit your business between the hours of 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Another alternative to consider when an agreement cannot be reached between you and your insurance company is the appraisal process. Every homeowner, tenant, cooperative apartment and condominium policy issued in New York contains a provision whereby you and your company select a competent and disinterested appraiser. The two appraisers, in turn, select an umpire. Each appraiser must evaluate the loss and determine the value of each item. Any disagreements between the appraisers regarding the value of any items are submitted to, and settled by the umpire. The costs of this process are paid by the policyholder and the insurance company.

More Information

If you have specific questions about your policies, you should always first check with your insurance agent, broker or company. If you are unable to get a satisfactory answer, speak with an Insurance Department representative. The Department’s Consumer Services Bureau can be reached between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-342-3736.


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