After the Storm: Insurance Claim Tips from the Texas Department of Insurance
AUSTIN – For the most part, insurance companies have failed to respond in a timely fashion to help consumers with their damage claims. However, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) offers the following tips for dealing with insurance claims stemming from storm damage:
- Review your policy carefully. Make sure you understand what losses are covered. If you’re not sure, ask your agent or an insurance company representative for an explanation.
- If you have wind coverage through the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA), you may need to file a separate claim. Commissioner Bulletin B-0053-08, issued by TDI on August 8, advises insurance carriers and agents to assist customers in identifying whether they have companion wind coverage and to provide assistance in making sure the claim is filed with TWIA.
- Make reasonable and necessary repairs to protect your home and property from further damage. Cover broken windows and holes to keep rain out. Do not make permanent repairs before a claims adjuster inspects the damage. Keep a record of your repair expenses and save all receipts.
- Try to be present when the adjuster inspects your damage. You may also have your contractor present at the inspection or have the contractor review the adjuster’s report before settling the claim. If you haven’t heard back from your insurance carrier, agent, or adjuster within a reasonable period of time, contact TDI.
- If you hire a public insurance adjuster, make sure he or she is licensed. Call TDI’s toll-free consumer Help Line, 1-800-252-3439, to verify a public insurance adjuster’s license status. Public insurance adjusters work independently and charge a fee for their services, which means you could have less money to repair or replace your damaged property. The adjuster must disclose the fee in the written contract with you. By law, public insurance adjusters are limited to no more than 10 percent of the claim settlement. Commissioner Bulletin B-0051-08, issued by TDI on August 8, spells out the role and licensing requirements of public insurance adjusters. Public adjusters may not give legal advice and may not participate, either directly or indirectly, in the reconstruction or repair of your damaged property.
If Your Home Is Flooded
Homeowners, renters, and dwelling policies do not cover flood damage from rising waters. Some policies cover damage from rain if the rain entered through an opening in the roof or a wall caused by the direct force of wind or hail. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides insurance that covers damage from rising waters. You must obtain this coverage separately from a standard homeowners policy. If you have an NFIP policy, report claims to NFIP at 1-800-638-6620.
If Your Automobile Is Flooded
If you have comprehensive, “other than collision” coverage, your auto policy will pay for flood damage to your car. If you’re looking to buy a car, beware of flood-damaged vehicles.
Resources for Assistance
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has opened six Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) in South Texas (see locations below).You can visit a DRC in-person or call FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
TDI insurance specialists are also available at the DRCs to provide general insurance information, locate your agent or company, or file a complaint. You may also call TDI’s Consumer Help Line toll-free, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Assistance is available in both English and Spanish.