What Should I do if My Business has been Damaged by a Storm?
If a storm damages your business, making sure your insurance claim is handled properly can mean the difference between financial security and re-opening your business quickly or facing financial disaster. After a storm strikes, you can improve your chances of getting money from the insurance company quickly if you follow certain steps:
Call your insurance company. Questions to ask them include:
- What do I need to do to make a claim?
- Will the insurance company send an adjuster to my business or will they first send me a claim form, sometimes called a “proof of loss” form, to complete?
TIP: Even if the adjuster comes first, the more information you can provide – descriptions of damaged items, photographs, dates of purchases, replacement costs, etc. – the faster your claim can be processed.
Inventory your possessions and property.
- Take pictures or video of the storm damage.
- Collect brand names and model numbers for appliances and electronics.
TIP: If you have receipts, credit card statements, or cancelled checks that prove the value of damaged items, collect them and give them to your insurance company when you file a claim.
Check for damage.
Prepare a list of damages for the insurance adjuster. Remember that some storm damage, such as hail damage, can sometimes be difficult for the average person to detect.
TIP: Even if you do not believe your business has been damaged, if a significant storm has hit your area, consider hiring a licensed public adjuster to inspect your property. Experts can oftentimes alert you to damage invisible to the untrained eye and thereby prevent future damage to your business.
Gather your policies.
Prepare to file your insurance claim by gathering copies of your policy, or track down your policy numbers. Ask your insurer what to do next. If there was a widespread disaster, the insurance company might establish special procedures.
Questions on Storm Damage to Your Business
Several contractors have come to my door since the storm offering their services. How do I choose one?
- You should be extremely cautious when hiring contractors to repair storm damage. Take your time in choosing a contractor and follow these tips:
- Get estimates from several licensed, bonded contractors.
- Check the credentials of contractors with your local Better Business Bureau.
- Ask your neighbors what they're paying for similar work.
- Inspect contractors' licenses and proof of liability insurance.
- Get a contract in writing.
- Make sure the contractor follows local building codes and inspection procedures.
TIP: Any permanent repairs should wait until the insurance company's adjuster has inspected the property and the insurance company has fully paid your claim.
Can I get multiple bids or inspections?
Absolutely. It is wise to get at least three estimates from reputable contractors who have experience working with insurance claims and repairing storm damage.
How long do I have to file an insurance claim after a storm hits?
While the time you have to file an insurance claim varies, most insurance policies limit your time to file a claim to within 12-24 months after the storm. Contact your insurance agent to see how long you have to file a claim.
Can I trust my insurance agent to represent my best interests?
No matter how much you like your insurance agent personally, remember, your insurance agent works for the insurance company, which is in business to make money. To ensure you receive proper payment for your claim, get estimates from at least three reputable contractors not referred by your insurance company. Contractors referred by your insurance company may have an incentive to save your insurance company money.
My insurance company denied my storm damage claim. Is there anything I can do?
You can request a re-inspection after your storm claim has been denied. To increase your chances of having your damage claim approved, consider having a licensed public adjuster or reputable contractor present for the re-inspection. These experts can often help you get your claim approved even if it has been previously denied. You can also contact an experienced attorney who is familiar with the tactics used by insurance companies to deny valid claims and who can help you get your claim properly paid.