Disasters: Working With Your Insurance Company
|Sign up to receive the complete "Disasters: Working With Your Insurance Company" series via email. You will receive the first part shortly after signing up.|
Insurance policies are designed to protect your home, its contents and your automobiles in the event of a disaster, but documenting your property is a critical step if you want to minimize your losses and make the most of your coverage.
Before a disaster strikes, follow these essential steps:
- Keep your insurance policy in a safe location (a bank safe deposit box is ideal). Keep the name, address and telephone number of your insurance agent in your wallet or disaster kit.
- Inventory all of the property in your home. Use your computer to create a spreadsheet that lists each item and its value. Go from room to room (including garages, attics and basements) to make sure you don’t leave anything out. Be sure to print out hard copies that can be kept in a home safe, as well as your bank safe deposit box.
- Be specific in your documentation. Don’t simply list "large television." Write down the serial number, model number, product description, price paid and date of purchase. Keep receipts in your safe deposit box, with copies in a home safe. Itemize everything: furniture, electronic equipment, computers, artwork, jewelry, home and decorative accessories, contents of drawers and cupboards, clothing and anything you would ultimately need to declare as a loss.
- Use your camera or video equipment to document all of your possessions. (If you don’t own a camera, pick up a disposable one to take pictures—and be sure to have the film developed.) Visual documentation will make claims processing go much more smoothly. Don’t use visual documentation as a substitute for written documentation and receipts. You should have both written and visual documentation for insurance claims.
Many people fail to realize that flood and earthquake insurance are not included in most standard homeowner’s insurance policies. If you live in a flood-prone area (and most of us do), you’ll need to purchase flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program. If you live in an earthquake-prone area, you’ll need to purchase special earthquake coverage to protect your property and its contents.
Review your insurance policies regularly to ensure you have optimum coverage. Some policies cover only physical damage to your home, but fail to offer replacement coverage for the furnishings and property within. Check with your insurance agent before a disaster strikes to ensure that you have adequate coverage. Also ask your agent to review the claims-filing process in advance so there are no "surprises" after a disaster occurs.
Visit American Family Safety’s Flood Safety Center for additional information on flood emergencies and insurance.