Insurers Offer Recovery Advice to Storm Victims in the Southeast
Tallahassee, Fla. - It was a rough start to the week for many in the Southeast as violent storms and tornadoes ripped through portions of Florida. As residents begin the recovery process, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) says the first step is to contact your insurer and start the claims process.
“Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted by this recent round of violent weather,” said Logan McFaddin PCI’s Florida regional manager. “Homeowners should contact their insurance company or agent through their toll free phone number, app or website. Insurers plan for catastrophes and are prepared to assist homeowners immediately. Company adjustors are now in the field helping homeowners and renters begin repairs and rebuilding.”
Most severe weather related events like hail and tornados are covered under either a homeowners, renters or commercial insurance policy. Renters insurance covers a policyholder’s personal possessions damaged by tornados. Windstorm and hail damage for cars is covered by the comprehensive coverage in an auto insurance policy.
These storms highlight the importance of always being prepared and ensuring residents have the proper coverage for their homes and businesses. The increase in storm activity in the past few days also puts a spotlight on the need to curb abuses from unscrupulous individuals and companies that capitalize on consumers during a time of need.
It’s important that consumers are aware of the Assignment of Benefits (AOB) abuse. After a homeowner or driver experiences property damage from a storm like this one, dishonest restoration and repair companies convince the unsuspecting person to sign an AOB authorization. By signing that contract, the person essentially hands over all the rights and benefits of his or her insurance policy. Once the dishonest vendors have control of the insurance benefits, they team up with trial lawyers to inflate claims and then sue the insurance companies. Ultimately, those fake and inflated claims and lawsuits drive up the cost of home and auto insurance and make it more expensive to own a home or car.
The AOB scam started in the homeowners insurance marketplace and often targeted storm victims who suffered damage to their homes. Now, it’s rapidly growing on the auto repair side too.
For now, consumers’ best defense against AOB schemes is to fully investigate any vendor they are considering hiring to perform repairs on their homes or vehicles. Be wary of anyone who approaches you unsolicited about repairs. Ask friends and neighbors, or your insurance agent, for referrals for reputable repair companies. Insurers want their policyholders to receive quality repairs, and they care about improving the insurance marketplace and protecting Florida consumers.
“Insurers want their policyholders to receive quality repairs, and they care about improving the insurance marketplace and protecting Florida consumers. We encourage policyholders to contact your company or agent first before signing any documents with a contractor or vendor,” added McFaddin.
PCI’s Tornado Recovery Tips:
- Secure property from further damage or theft.
- Contact your insurance agent or company representative as soon as possible to report damage.
- Inventory losses and photograph damage to provide to your insurance adjustor. Save receipts.
- If you are a business owner, keep detailed records of business activity that is negatively affected due to the tornado or storm and keep a list of extra expenses during the interruption. Prepare records to show the income from the business before and after the loss.
- Many standard homeowners’ and renters’ policies provide reimbursement of additional living expenses when the property is determined to be uninhabitable due to a covered loss. This provision helps with paying for increases to necessary living expenses such as temporary housing and restaurant meals. In addition, extra expenses such as overnight parking and laundry services may also be covered. Additional living expense coverage does not pay for all living expenses, so contact your insurance company or agent for a list of what your policy will cover.
- Be careful about unscrupulous contractors following a natural disaster. Contact your insurer, agent or local business bureau for references on potential contractors and ask for certificates of liability and workers compensation before signing contracts.
PCI's Tornado Headquarters offers vital information for those impacted by tornadoes, as well as preparedness tips for those living in tornado-prone areas. Follow us on twitter @PCIAA and use #HaveAPlan as we continue to provide tips on what to do before and after a tornado.
Here’s a list of PCI Member Company Toll-Free Policyholder Claim Numbers: http://bit.ly/PCITollFreeNumbers