How to get fair insurance treatment after Hurricane Idalia
With climate change creating more storms and natural disasters, insurance companies are facing unprecedented claims. They’re reacting with raising prices and refusing to offer coverage in some areas of high storm activities.
Policyholders are entitled to receive their claims payments under the terms of their insurance policies, and insurers shouldn’t delay or mistreat consumers.
Many victims of Hurricane Idalia will be underinsured and uninsured for flood damage. There will be big fights over whether the damage was caused by wind, covered in a home policy, versus flooding, excluded in a home policy.
Home insurers should pay for damage from hurricane winds and falling rain, the Consumer Federation of America and United Policyholders, consumer advocacy organizations, said in a statement. They recommend that insured property owners with damaged homes take the following steps.
- Contact your insurance company and report your claims as soon as possible. Depending on what caused the damage to your home, your claim may be covered either by wind insurance or flood insurance, or by both. Homeowners insurance policies generally don’t cover flood damage.
- Document damage in photos and videos as thoroughly as possible, but only to the extent that it’s safe. Don’t allow damaged items to be removed before they’ve been photographed and documented.
- Keep a daily journal with records of each time you speak or meet with insurance company adjusters, repair professionals, or anyone you are considering hiring. Write down their name and the data and time of the contact.
- Maintain receipts for every cost you incur. This includes hotel and food costs when you evacuate, alternative living arrangements costs if you can’t return to your home, and anything you spend on making initial repairs to your home to prevent further damage. This may be covered under your home or private flood insurance policy. Temporary living expenses aren’t covered under National Flood Insurance Program or NFIP policies.
- Check references and license status before you agree to hire or assign any of your insurance benefits to any professional. Post-disaster scams are common. Local help is preferable, but if it’s unavailable, be careful and vet out-of-the-area pros before you sign on the dotted lines.
“At a time of rising insurance costs, consumers need fair treatment and prompt payment of claims after Hurricane Idalia,” said Michael DeLong, CFA’s research and advocacy associate.
After Hurricane Ian, there were many reports of insurers exploiting consumers by altering adjustments and trying to reduce payments, DeLong said.
“We hope that insurance companies will be good partners in the recovery and rebuilding to come, but policyholders and regulators must stay vigilant to ensure fair treatment,” he said.
If you run into problems or are mistreated by your insurer, contact your state insurance department or the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA for flood claims. The information is below:
Georgia Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner
2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, West Tower, Suite 702
Atlanta, GA 30334
File a complaint: https://oci.georgia.gov/file-consumer-insurance-complaint
South Carolina Department of Insurance
1201 Main Street, Suite 1000
Columbia, South Carolina, 29201
File a complaint: https://sbs.naic.org/solar-web/pages/public/onlineComplaintForm/onlineComplaintForm.jsf?state=SC&dswid=-537
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C St SW, Washington, DC 20024