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Consumer Reports: Tips for filing insurance claims after a storm

Consumer Reports: Tips for filing insurance claims after a storm
Consumer Reports has some tips for filing an insurance claim after storm damage and what to do if you don't think the settlement is enough. (Photo credit: Consumer Reports)

Every year, many people whose homes are damaged by storms begin the sometimes-confusing process of filing insurance claims. Consumer Reports offers some tips that may help you with this process.

If damage to your house or property isn’t extreme, Consumer Reports says you’ll need to decide whether you should even bother filing a claim. CR says that in most cases you shouldn’t file claim for any damage that’s lower in cost than your deductible, but the exception to that is water damage. That’s because what seems like a small problem could signal a bigger, more expensive mess lurking inside the walls or ceiling.

As you’re assessing the situation, it is also important to document the damage. Use your smartphone to take photos and videos. This will help you make a list of items that were destroyed or need repair. And if you need to make repairs right away, keep all the receipts to file with your claim.

Next comes a walk-through with an insurance adjuster to assess the damage. These used to always be in-person visits, but because of the pandemic, many will be virtual walk-throughs, and some adjusters will accept videos and photos you took with your smartphone.

At some point, you’ll receive a settlement that outlines what your insurance company will cover. But what if that settlement isn’t enough? If you think what you’re offered isn’t enough to cover all the damages, get another estimate to show your insurance company. And if you’re denied something, ask your insurance company why.

And remember, insurance claims take time, so keep all your paperwork organized.

If you have a very large claim, you may want to turn to a public adjuster, someone who works on your behalf and represents you during the process. But be aware of fees. In some states, a public adjuster’s fees are capped, typically at around 10-12 percent of the insurance payout.

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