Tips on filing an insurance claim for damage after a storm or other disaster

TAMPA - Nearly every inch of the bay area is soaked. The heavy downpour also brought heavy hearts as many residents assessed damage to their homes.

Experts are offering advice on making a claim. They said the key is your phrasing when you make your claim. In fact, they said, how you describe the damage can lead to an acceptance or denial.

Attorney Charles Gallagher specializes in weather-related claims.

"Saying the wrong thing can get you out of coverage," Gallagher said.

He explained that consumers need to be careful when describing their damage.  Be honest, but Gallagher said avoid blaming damage on flooding if that may not be the culprit.

"If you say you have a flood loss, many times the policy will exclude flood, but will cover windstorm," Gallagher explained.

Galllagher said anyone with a mortgage should have a homeowner's policy. Flooding policies are sold separately and not everyone has one.

"Calling a homeowner's carrier and saying 'I have a flood,' here is a code word for them to deny coverage," Gallagher said.

He added a homeowner's policy should cover most storm related damages, even water damage.

"If the result of the water intrusion came through your window or part of your roof, go ahead and state that succinctly rather than saying I have flooding in my house," Gallagher suggested.

If you feel you are wrongly denied, you can seek an attorney's advice. Thanks to a Florida statute, if you win, most of your attorney's fees should be covered.   However, taking such action is a gamble.

Top Ten Tips from Law Firm of Charles Gallagher

1. Secure Insurance: Companies Will Not Write New Policies When Storm is Eminent
2. Ensure Insurance is Adequate: Replacement Cost and Mortgage Balance
3. Ensure Copy of Current Insurance Policy Waterproof Container
4. Document Contents-Before the Storm (Photos, Video, Written Inventory)
5. Secure Outside Furnishings and Other Movable Items
6. Keep Policy Number and Claim Reporting Hot-line Hurricane Kit
7. Emergency Repairs: Tarps, Duct Tape and Reasonable Measures
8. Document Extent of Loss: (Photos, Video, Receipts, Written Inventory)
9. Timely Report to Insurance Carrier
10. Cooperate with Insurance Claim Investigation

In addition, the Better Business Bureau offers some tips for steps to take before, during, and after a disaster.


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