Here on the East Coast, the news is dominated by Hurricane Joaquin and its potential impact on the Eastern Seaboard. One of the many topics is how to prepare for the storm. Residents are encouraged to purchase staples such as water, bread and milk; make sure they have flashlights and batteries; secure outdoor furniture, etc. This is good advice as it seems the storm will take aim somewhere on the East Coast. Inevitably there will be damage somewhere so I would like to take a few minutes to talk about preparing for what we call the storm after the storm.
After litigating hundreds of Superstorm Sandy claims, one thing is clear: The damage caused by a storm is often intensified by the claims handling procedures of insurance carriers. Because there are bound to be some fights over claims, I offer the following advice:
- Take pictures—lots of them. Visual evidence is very powerful evidence to show the condition of your dwelling and establish ownership of personal property as well the condition of the property. Most of us do not have receipts for personal property collected over the years and photographs can be the next best thing when property is lost or damaged.
- If your property is subject to flooding, move your personal property to the second level of your home, if possible. Often, flood insurance limits the coverage for personal property located on the lowest level of a home; moving the contents will protect them from damage that may not be covered by your policy.
- Review your insurance policies and have a conversation with your broker. While it is likely too late to make any changes to the policies, identifying holes in your coverage will help guide you in your preparedness efforts.
- Remove irreplaceable items from potential damage areas. While insurance can replace televisions, couches and beds, it cannot replace baby pictures and wedding albums. Thinking ahead will help preserve these irreplaceable items in the event of hasty evacuation.
I hope these tips are helpful but the most important thing is safety and common sense. Secure your property and get you and your family to safety. Everything else can be replaced…even if you have to fight for it.