Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – July 18, 2013 – When dealing with the aftermath of an unexpected flood or other natural disaster, it is important to react immediately to any property damage, but not panic. In order to begin the insurance claims process, contact your insurance adjuster well within the deadline for filing claims to avoid any issues regarding a cut-off date.
“As a preventative measure, the Better Business Bureau advises all consumers to keep insurance policies organized and in a secure, yet easily accessible location,” says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “Review your coverage each year to ensure it is adequate. You should also discuss with your insurance agent what liabilities you may have, if any of your personal items cause damage to neighboring properties during a storm.”
In addition, BBB recommends the following helpful insurance tips for homeowners dealing with storm repairs:
• Use a camera to take pictures or video of both the interior and exterior of your home as well as your property to document the immediate damage. Document all debris piles and create a detailed account of your belongings and losses.
• Begin seeking out current replacement costs for items you will be including in your insurance claim, rather than depending solely on historical costs.
• If you home is unlivable, inquire with your insurance adjuster about your eligibility for loss-of-use benefits. You may have the opportunity to be reimbursed for hotel costs, food and other living expenses. Be sure to document all conversations with your insurance company or their adjuster and get all promises for reimbursements in writing. Maintain all receipts.
• Make any minor repairs that you can do safely to minimize further damage to your home. You could be found liable for damage that occurs after a storm has passed, so make temporary repairs such as boarding up broken windows, removing wet drywall and carpet to prevent mold and putting up a tarp over a leaky roof. If you home is unlivable, contact your utility company to turn off water, gas and/or electric services.
• Do not make any permanent repairs until you get approval from your insurance company. Make sure you understand how your homeowner's insurance company will reimburse your repair costs. Before spending money, call your insurance company first to make sure all necessary procedures are followed according to your policy.
• Beware of contractors who claim to be insurance claim specialists and may ask you to sign an agreement to allow them to contact your insurance company and seek approval of repairs for you. Many unscrupulous businesses have tricked consumers into signing a work estimate without reading the fine print, which commits you to automatically contract with their business if your insurance claim is approved.
• Check any contractor you are considering hiring out with BBB and make sure they are approved by your insurance company before entering an agreement. Ask to see proof of their licensing through the PA Attorney General and current certificate of insurance. Be aware that if you hire an uninsured and unlicensed contractor and a serious injury were to occur to the contractor, you could potentially be liable for paying the workers compensation benefits.
• Do not hand over an insurance check to a contractor for repairs prior to work being started. A good rule of thumb is to never give more than 1/3 of the job price up front and make sure that your insurance company has approved all repairs before your final payment is given to the business.
Flood victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor. Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews you can trust on local businesses, visit www.bbb.org or call 877.267.5222. Further, additional useful information can be found on the BBB Severe Weather webpage and on the Environmental Protection Agency’s websites.
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