Hurricane Recovery Takes Persistence
Senior CFP Board Ambassador Jill Schlesinger, CFP® offers tips to help people file insurance claims from this year’s historic disasters
The financial aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma will unfold for months, and many people will need to turn into their own advocates to recover the full extent of their losses, said Senior CFP Board Ambassador Jill Schlesinger, CFP®.
“Keep working the process – it can take patience and persistence, but ultimately, you have to be your own advocate,” Schlesinger advised people affected by the hurricanes. “Unfortunately, natural disasters have a way of pointing out some of the more mundane aspects of our financial lives, like the details of property and casualty insurance coverage.”
Those facing flood damage could face the toughest challenges. Many homeowners’ policies do not cover damage that results from rising water. Fewer than 20 percent of the homeowners in the eight counties most directly affected by Harvey had special flood insurance offered by the National Flood Insurance program, according to a Washington Post analysis. In scenarios where homeowners are covered from water and structural damage, it can take months to complete and settle claims.
In her latest contribution to LetsMakeAPlan.org, Schlesinger offered ideas to help people affected by these and other natural disasters successfully file claims with their insurance companies. She also offered the link to help people file for aid from the federal government: www.disasterassistance.gov.
- Act fast and document everything. Schlesinger advised people to take photos before moving any damaged items. She also suggested making claims as soon as possible, as insurance companies work on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Wait before making permanent repairs. An insurance adjustor will visit the property to survey the damage, and you will need to agree on the value of repairs. If you need to make temporary repairs to prevent further damage, inform the company.
- Make sure the adjustor represents your company. In a widespread disaster, there will be independent insurance adjustors on the scene, so make sure you’re seeing the right person. You can also ask for the name of the internal adjustor to whom the independent adjustor is sending information.
- If you’re not happy with the settlement offer, remember that it can be negotiated. The insurance company may not be taking into account regional differences in the costs of materials and labor, for instance.
- Keep a paperwork trail and register complaints in writing. If you are unhappy with the process, there are places to turn for help, including your state’s insurance commissioner.
Of course, the time to examine the details of your insurance policies is before a disaster. A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional can help Americans ensure they are fully covered.