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Insurance advice for victims of recent storms

May 26, 2008

Insurance advice for victims of recent storms

For Immediate Release: May 26, 2008

Department of Commerce Offers Insurance Advice for Victims of Recent Storms

(St. Paul, MN --) In the wake of Sunday's tornado and severe weather, the Minnesota Department of Commerce offers information for homeowners who experienced damage from the storms: 

If you experience a loss get the claims process in motion.  Contact your agent immediately to report a loss covered by auto, homeowners, or flood insurance. The agent will prepare a Notice of Loss form and an adjuster will be assigned to assist you. Follow the instructions given to you by claims personnel. Since there will be many people in need of help, anything you have done before the disaster to prepare for a loss will be to your benefit.

Keep your insurance policy number handy.   The claims process always goes faster when the adjuster, the agent, or the service center operator does not have to search their records for information about your policy.

Keep your claim number handy.   When you file your claim, the insurer will give it a number. Future conversations with insurance personnel will go quicker if you know your claim number.

Take notes. Start from the beginning to keep a log of the people you spoke to and when, as well as a summary of your conversation. If possible, photograph the inside and outside of the premises, showing the damage and surrounding area.

Figure out extent of damage.   Separate the damaged from the undamaged property and put it in the best possible order for the adjuster's examination. If possible, protect the property from further damage.

Wait for the adjuster to arrive.   Do not call anyone to permanently repair or replace your loss without first getting instructions from your adjuster, because your insurer's visual inspection of your loss may be necessary before covered repairs are undertaken. Do not throw away damaged property until your adjuster advises you. If your home is damaged, make only temporary repairs until a claims adjuster looks at the damage. Making permanent repairs before the adjuster's inspection could trigger a denial of your claim.

Get your questions and complaints answered immediately.   Many "problems" with insurance are not problems at all, but misunderstandings. Insurance is a big expense and you have a right to know you are getting what you paid for. Again, you can expedite the process by having your policy and claim numbers handy along with an accurate summary of communications that have transpired to date.

If you have a dispute with your insurance company about the amount of damage or the cost of repairs, first try to negotiate a settlement with your insurance company. Most policies have a clause that allows you to ask for an appraisal of the loss. You will be able to select an appraiser, the insurance company will select one, and a third will be mutually agreed upon. Together they will appraise the loss and decide on a value. Your policy will have more details on this procedure. You can also contact the Department of Commerce for guidance.

Where to go with Questions:
If you experience problems with an insurance company or are aware of any fraudulent activity, please contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce Consumer Response Team at 800-657-3602 or 651-539-1600 or visit us on the web at www.commerce.state.mn.us