Recovering from Florence: Filing insurance claims

Published 7:36 pm Monday, September 17, 2018

Hurricane Florence left a path of destruction across the Carolinas. Now that the storm has passed, part of the recovery process is to contact your insurance company to assess the damage to your property and file a claim.

There are two ways to file a claim, according to Priscilla Smith, Property and Casualty Manager at Flatlands Insurance Group in Washington: either online through your particular carrier’s website, or by calling your insurance agent.

“Every (insurance) carrier has a process, which they can file the claim online,” Smith said. “They can call their agent and we can file the claim for them, usually 48 to 72 hours before an adjustor actually contacts them with a date that they’ll be out there to assess the damages.”

Along with filing a claim, Smith said those that suffered property damage should also secure their home the best they can while remaining safe, as well as make a list of damaged items to give to their insurance agent.

“They (the insurance agent) will ask them for a list, an itemized list, of all the things that were damaged, especially with the flood loss,” Smith said. “They’ll want to know if they have contents insurance, and if they do, they’ll want to know an itemized list of everything that was lost. If it’s not contents (insurance) and it’s just structure (insurance), then it’d actually be the home or the structure that is insured. But if they have contents insurance then absolutely they want to make a list of everything that’s in the home and everything that was damaged.”

It’s best to report a claim as soon as possible, as insurance companies are dealing with a large volume of claims. The sooner the company receives a customer’s claim information, the sooner that customer’s claim is placed on the list to be filed. But while it is best to file a claim as soon as possible, Smith said claims don’t have to be filed immediately.

“If they don’t file it immediately and they find they have damage later, some people aren’t able to get to their homes for whatever reason, they have plenty of time to get that claim filed,” Smith said. “They don’t have to do it within a certain period of time. They have time where they can get that filed.”

Smith suggested for those that have questions about coverages, to reach out to their personal insurance agents.

“We can’t always give them the answer, because sometimes the adjustor is the one absolutely making that call,” Smith said. “But we can kind of point them in the right direction, hopefully.”

As all those that suffered damage from Hurricane Florence begin to rebuild their homes and lives, they need to be wary of potential scams, according to North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey.

“If you’re asked for your John Hancock or to sign on the dotted line, stop and ask yourself if this is a scam,” Causey said in a press release. “Unfortunately, scam artists use emergency situations such as a hurricane to prey on citizens during this vulnerable time. Keep your guard up so that you don’t get ripped off.”

In a press release from the North Carolina Department of Insurance, Causey offered the following tips to help keep victims from being ripped off by scammers:

  • Be wary of roofing sales representatives or contractors going door-to-door soliciting business. Deal only with reputable roofing and construction contractors. If you have any questions, contact your local Better Business Bureau or check out the business’ reputation through online clearinghouses such as Angie’s List or Yelp.
  • Contact your insurance company before signing a contract for repairs to your home.
  • Don’t enter into a contract with a public adjuster until you’ve talked with your insurance agent.
  • Only work with licensed and insured contractors.
  • Get more than one estimate. Don’t be pushed into signing a contract right away.
  • Get everything in writing, including the cost of labor and materials, and a work schedule with a completed date.
  • Get IDs from sales representatives. Write down the representative’s name, driver’s license number and license plate number in case problems arise.
  • Never sign a blank contract.
  • Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is completed.

Insurance fraud is a crime. If you think you’re being scammed or want to report suspected fraud, please call the NCDOI Criminal Investigations Division at 919-807-6840.