Volume 1 Number 40
October 4, 2004










TEXT VERSION

 

 

 


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON INSURANCE CLAIMS

Q: Do insurance companies cover temporary housing if a house is unlivable?
A: Yes, additional living expenses are covered initially, generally at a rate of 10 to 20 percent of the value of the dwelling.

Q: With concerns about mold growing from moisture damage, do I have to wait for an adjuster to survey the damage before doing work?
A: Temporary repairs can be done and are encouraged to mitigate further damage and help protect the integrity of the house. Take before and after photos and keep all receipts if you want to reimbursed for repairs.

Q: Should I report my claim or wait?
A: Report your claim as quickly as possible.

Q: How do I know which policy to file my claim under (homeowners, flood, windstorm)?
A: File your claim with all three policies, the adjuster(s) will take care of determining which policy or policies cover your loss.

Q: Should I paint my insurance company name and policy number on my house?
A: If forced to evacuate, take your insurance company contact info with you. If your house is uninhabitable, then put your insurance company's name on a piece of wood and prop it up against the house. NEVER put the policy number or you could be left vulnerable to scam artists.

Q: How long should it take for an adjuster to come to my house and assess the damage?
A: It depends on the severity of damage caused by the storm. Adjusters come into the disaster areas as soon as permitted by emergency officials. Call 800-22-STORM for help with this issue.

Q: What is a public adjuster? What should a storm victim know about adjusters?
A: There are adjusters who work for insurance companies, and there are public adjusters who work under a contract with a homeowner and receive a percentage of the settlement. CFO Tom Gallagher issued emergency rules after Hurricane Charley banning public adjusters from requiring cash up front and limiting fees to no more than 10% of the claim. These rules are still in effect.

Q: Is there any financial help available for people who are uninsured?
A:  Contact FEMA at 1-800- 462-9029.

Q: What about financial assistance for deductibles?
A:  You can contact FEMA at 1-800-462-9029 to apply for assistance.  FEMA will first refer your application to the Small Business Association (SBA) to see if you will qualify for a low-interest loan.  If you do not qualify for a loan, then FEMA will evaluate your application for further assistance with grants.

Q: What if I have damage from Hurricane Charley and now from Hurricane Frances, Ivan or Jeanne? Will I have to pay a second deductible?
A:  A majority of insurance policies require one deductible per event. CFO Gallagher recognizes the financial hardship this may cause many Floridians.  Consumers who sustain additional damage from a subsequent storm should call the department and we’ll work with the consumer and the insurance company to determine if back-to-back storm damage is considered a single event.

Q: Charley caused several billion dollars in damage. If more storms hit, will my insurance company go bankrupt?
A: The insurance industry learned its lesson from Hurricane Andrew. At that time, rates were woefully inadequate and as a result, nearly a dozen insurance companies became insolvent and several others stopped writing and starting non-renewing customers. Since then, rates have increased significantly so money was available to pay claims should another catastrophic storm make landfall in Florida. At this time, the insurance industry is financially prepared for a $25 billion event.

Q: With more storm hits, will my insurance rates go up?
A: There are a number of factors that contribute to the rising cost of insurance. However, we do not anticipate rates to rise with the damage sustained during Hurricane Charley. It is too early to speculate what changes will happen, if any, due to Frances, Ivan or Jeanne.

Q: Will another storm result in my insurance company going bankrupt?
A: Insurance companies operating in Florida are well capitalized and are required to have reserves and reinsurance in preparation for a catastrophic storm. Frances, Ivan and Jeanne, on the heels of Charley, will certainly have a financial impact on the industry but we don't know the extent of insured damages at this time. The Office of Insurance Regulation is carefully monitoring the financial health of the industry.

Q: What did we learn from Hurricane Andrew?
A: : We learned to take hurricane warnings seriously, and understand the need for better coordination among federal, state and local agencies, and the need for stronger building codes. The experience of Andrew spurred the creation of the catastrophe fund and insurer of last resort.

Q: Floodwaters damaged the first floor of my house and wind tore off the roof.  Will my insurer pay for the repairs of all of my damage?
A: Your homeowner’s insurance policy should cover the roof damage, minus your deductible.  If you don’t have flood insurance, however, you may be in trouble.  Most homeowners’ policies cover wind damage — not flood damage.  Flood insurance is underwritten by the federal government and provided through the National Flood Insurance Program. 

Q: The storm flooded my expensive landscaping and uprooted a tree which then tore up my roof.  Will my policy cover replacement of my plants and tree?

A: Because the tree has damaged an insured building your insurance company should pay to repair the roof – and remove the tree in the process.  However, most policies do not provide for damaged landscape – including trees – to be hauled away or replaced if the damage doesn’t directly impact an insured structure.

Q: My agent says the claim check will be made out to me and the bank who holds my mortgage.  Why?
A:  Your insurance company will consider that the bank also owns the house, and as a result, also has a claim on your insurance – so in many cases the check will be made out to both parties.  Your bank should be cooperative with you about getting the check cashed because it has vested interest in getting you the money you need to repair the damage.

Q:  My policy calls for me to be reimbursed the amount it costs to replace my loss.  The agent says I will get two checks from the insurance company.  First, they will pay the depreciated value.  Later, after the damage is repaired, the agent says they will pay the balance of the replacement cost.  What does that mean?
A:   Many policies will allow this.  The insurance company can pay you for the depreciated value of your loss.  Once the repair is made and you have a receipt showing the repair expense, the company must reimburse you the full amount up to policy limits.

The skyline for October is Daytona Beach, photo courtesy of the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.