In the wake of this super storm, we encourage victims to continue taking all the necessary precautions to protect their families and properties. For many affected by the storm, it may be difficult to access their property to begin assessing damage. Many policyholders may find themselves in unfamiliar territory in responding to a storm of this magnitude in the Northeast. Questions may arise about what damages are covered by insurance, given the unique circumstances affecting each property. Policyholders should read the terms and conditions of their policies.
Contact should be made as soon as reasonably possible with insurers providing coverage for affected properties. With many still without power in the region, loss notices to insurers will likely increase in the weeks to follow. We always discuss the fact that pictures are worth a thousand words, and it is helpful to take dated photographs of the damage. Perform any necessary temporary repairs to prevent further damage and log all expenses. Do not throw away damaged personal property before giving insurance adjusters the opportunity to inspect the damage.
There will likely be insurance company and catastrophe adjusters there to take statements, review and photograph damages, and potentially make coverage decisions on the losses. Those unfamiliar with the claims process can always hire their own experienced representatives to review their insurance policies for coverage and document losses on their behalf. Insurance company and catastrophe adjusters represent insurance companies, and not necessarily the policyholder. Policyholders should not feel pressured to sign releases presented by an insurance company representative until they have consulted their own experienced insurance representative.
Catastrophes present potential insurance coverage dilemmas, depending on the circumstances of the loss impacting each property and the coverage in place for a particular property at the time of the loss. Insurance coverage cases can be similar to running a gauntlet, and those going at it alone for the first time may be unaware of the potential pitfalls. There is help available through local bar associations, public adjusters, and other experienced claims professionals who can help navigate the coverage gauntlet.
Insurance policy interpretation is very important, and as cases reveal, the facts determine coverage in first party property insurance claims. Small factual changes potentially result in drastically different outcomes in a coverage evaluation. Knowing this and responding accordingly is half the battle.