The Minnesota Department of Commerce helps consumers in the event of a natural disaster.
Our experts can help you understand your rights, work with your insurer to settle a claim, and help you make informed insurance decisions after a flood or storm damages your home, auto, or property.
Immediately after the storm
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, there are basics steps that you can take to get you on the road to recovery. The first thing you should do is to call your insurance company for the relevant property (homeowners, renters, or auto).
Make sure that the structure is safe to enter and shut off electricity.
Before you start to clean up, take pictures or video to document the extent of the damage.
Avoid throwing anything out right way (with the exception of perishable food) until you meet with the insurance adjuster. They will help determine what can be discarded.
Make temporary inexpensive repairs to prevent further damage to your property. For example, board up broken windows or throw a tarp over a leaky roof. Otherwise, additional damage may not be covered by your policy. Keep receipts for materials you buy, so you can be reimbursed.
Filing a claim
Contact your insurance company immediately to report the loss and follow the instructions given to you by claims personnel.
Keep your insurance policy and claim number handy. This will help the claims process go faster.
Take notes. Keep a log of who you spoke to and when: include a summary of the conversation and ask questions if you don’t understand the instructions.
Make a home inventory. If you don’t already have a home inventory, make a list of as many items as you can remember.
Wait for the company’s adjuster to arrive. Do not call anyone to repair or replace your loss without first getting instructions from your company’s adjuster. Your insurer’s visual inspection of your loss may be necessary before repairs are made. Do not throw away damaged property until your company’s adjuster advises you it is all right to do so. If your home is damaged, make only temporary repairs until a claims adjuster looks at the damage.
Working with the Insurance Company adjuster
A company adjuster will inspect your home to assess the initial damage. Be sure to ask the adjuster for
A business card identifying their phone number and address
Information about what you are required to do next
Information about what the company will be doing next
Ask if you are expected to get estimates for repairs or if the company will be doing that on your behalf.
Time estimate of how long the adjuster expects the claim settlement process to last
Additional living expenses. If you are unable to stay in your home, the adjuster may issue an advance payment for additional living expenses. Cashing the check will not have any effect on your final insurance settlement. However, you should keep receipts for all additional expenses you incur because your home is uninhabitable.
Meet with your insurance agent annually or as needed to ensure your insurance coverage is adequate to protect you and your family against loss. Take into account any recent changes or additions to your property or surrounding area.
Read and understand your insurance policies
Many people wait until after they experience a loss to understand their coverage. Unfortunately, these decisions cannot be undone and they will directly affect your ability to recover from a loss. Review your existing insurance coverage and figure out where your “gaps” are. Make sure you are aware of your policy limits, deductibles, and exclusions. Most homeowners policies have limits for jewelry, electronics, and other valuables.
Actual cash value vs. replacement cost coverage
Imagine that your roof is damaged in a storm and all the shingles need to be replaced. The cost to replace them is $10,000. The shingles are 10 years old, but they should have lasted for 20 years under normal conditions. Therefore, they have depreciated by one-half of their full value.
Under an actual cash value policy, you would only be paid $5,000 for a loss, minus any deductible. Under a replacement cost policy, you would initially receive $5,000 for the loss of the roof. Then, after having it repaired or replaced, you would submit the bill to the insurance company for the balance, not to exceed the amount determined by the insurance company to return your roof to its original condition.
Plan for a future claim
No one ever knows for sure when a natural disaster will strike. There are several steps you can take to ensure that you will be fully compensated for your loss as well as make the insurance claim filing process easier and faster after a disaster. For example, establish an on-going system to document major household item information. Written documentation may include the following: Manufacturer, model, serial numbers, age, value when new. Documentation may assist in any future claims for property loss and income tax deductions. Make sure you keep this information in a safe place.
When choosing homeowners insurance, most consumers think more about the value of the home than about their prized possessions inside. When determining coverage needs, it is important to know all the "stuff" in your home that warrants special protection. Insurable items not only include luxury items like jewelry and art, but also fun purchases that support personal passions. Whether it is gourmet cooking gadgets, designer handbags or high-end electronics, what you invest in personal passions can have an important impact on your insurance needs.
One of the best ways to make sure your possessions are fully protected is to document them with a home inventory. Here's how:
Group your possessions into logical categories, i.e., by hobby, by room in your home, etc.
Your list should include celebration purchases like jewelry and art, as well as everyday leisure items such as televisions and guitars.
Don't forget items you use rarely such as holiday decorations, sports equipment, tools, etc.
Pull together copies of original sales receipts and/or appraisal documents. Also note model and serial numbers.
Carefully photograph or videotape each item and document a brief description, including age, purchase price and estimated current value.
Store your home inventory and related documents in a safe, easily accessible place online, on your computer or in a fire-proof box or safe deposit box.
Consider sharing a copy with friends, relatives and your insurance provider.
You can download our home inventory packet (.pdf), or the free home inventory app for iPhone or Android smartphones. The app guides you through capturing images, descriptions, bar codes and serial numbers, and then stores them electronically for safekeeping. The app even creates a backup file for email sharing.