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Minnesota Commerce Department offers tips on insurance & storm damage claims

7/21/2016 9:08:55 AM

SAINT PAUL – In the aftermath of severe storms that hit many parts of northern Minnesota on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman urges Minnesotans who experienced damage to their homes, businesses or vehicles to contact their insurance companies to start the claims process. 

“Insurance is meant to be there at times like this when people are most vulnerable,” said Rothman, who serves as the state’s insurance regulator. “Minnesotans who suffered property damage from recent storms should contact their insurer as soon as possible. The Minnesota Commerce Department is here to help people understand the claims process and provide assistance if they have problems with their insurance.” 

The Commerce Department website (mn.gov/commerce) features a /commerce/consumers/your-home/protect/dic/index.jspDisaster Information Center with guidance about how to plan ahead and what to do after a disaster strikes. 

Rothman offers the following tips for Minnesotans affected by the storms:

Notify your insurance company or agent as soon as you can to start the claims process. If possible, have your policy information available when you call. If you cannot locate your insurance company information, the Minnesota Commerce Department may be able to help you with a contact number.

Make temporary inexpensive repairs to prevent further damage. For example, board up broken windows or throw a tarp over a leaky roof. Keep receipts for materials you buy, so you can be reimbursed. Do not make permanent repairs until your insurance company has inspected the damage. 

Record the damage. Take photos or video if possible. Make a detailed list of all personal property destroyed, damaged or lost. You will want to share the list with the insurance adjuster. Do not throw out any damaged items until the adjuster has inspected them.

If you need to relocate because of damage to your home, keep receipts for your temporary living expenses. Ask your insurance agent or company if your policy covers living expenses until repairs are made. Many homeowners policies provide for temporary lodging and meal expenses up to a certain percentage of the home’s insured value.

Work with the insurance company adjuster. Your insurance company will send an adjuster to inspect the damage to your home and personal property. (Make sure your house number is visible or provide directions.) The insurer pays the adjuster, so you should not be asked for any payment. 

The adjuster will provide you with a proof-of-loss form. Use this form to file a claim with your insurance company as soon as possible. You will receive your claim payment after you and the insurer agree on the amount of the damages.

You may be contacted by a public adjuster. For a fee, a public adjuster may offer to represent you in claim negotiations with your insurer. You are not required to hire a public adjuster to file a claim. Verify that the public adjuster is licensed with the Commerce Department, and ask for references and qualifications.

Keep records. Maintain copies of all correspondence, photos, documentation, and bills submitted to the adjuster and the insurance company. Keep good notes of your phone calls with your insurance company and the adjuster.

You have the right to choose which contractor will repair your home. Once your insurance claim is processed, get estimates from local contractors known to you or recommended by someone you trust. Avoid “storm chaser” contractors from out of town who go door to door. Ask contractors for references and proof of workers compensation insurance. Check their license status and any disciplinary actions at the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry website.

Insist on detailed, written estimates for repairs. Avoid high-pressure sales tactics. Some scammers will try to trick you into signing a contract by saying it is an estimate. Your signature is not required to receive an estimate. 

Prepare a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. It should specify the work to be done, the materials to be used and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Do not pay the whole repair bill in advance. Pay in full only when the work is completed according to your agreement.

Your homeowners insurance will generally cover removal of a fallen tree only if it caused damage to your house or other insured structure. There may also be a coverage limit for the cost of removal.

Storm damage to your vehicle may be covered by your auto insurance. Whether your vehicle was damaged by hail, a fallen tree or flooding, your loss may be covered as long as you selected "Comprehensive" or “Other than Collision” in your auto policy. Check your “Minnesota Insurance Identification Card” or call your agent or insurance company.

Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood damage. If you bought flood coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program, contact the agent or insurance company that sold you the policy. Water damage to your home from wind, hail and rain may be covered by your homeowners policy, so check with your agent. 

Contact the Minnesota Commerce Department if you have a problem with your insurance company or agent. If you have a complaint or cannot resolve your insurance claim, contact the Commerce Department for assistance. 

Commerce is here to help

If you have a question or concern about your insurance, contact the Commerce Department’s Consumer Services Center by email at consumer.protection@state.mn.us or by phone at 651-539-1600 or 800-657-3602 (Greater Minnesota).

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