As the recent severe storms across Texas have shown, a disaster can occur in any part of the state and often with little or no warning. Insurance offers financial protection against damage from natural disasters, but you need the right kind of insurance in the proper amounts, according to the Texas Department of Insurance.
TDI offered the following information to help consumers understand their coverage and protect their interests if they have to file a claim:
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.
After a loss, contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Keep a record of all contacts you have with your company. Be prepared to answer questions about the extent and severity of the damage. Your initial contact may be with your insurance agent, a claims office, or the company’s toll-free claims center.
Make a list of your damaged property. Photograph or videotape the damage if possible. Don’t throw away damaged items until your insurance adjuster has had a chance to view them.
Make reasonable and necessary repairs to protect your home and property from further damage. Cover broken windows and holes to keep rain out. Don’t make permanent repairs until instructed by your insurance company. Keep a record of your repair expenses and save all receipts.
Remove any standing water and dry the area as soon as possible. Move water-soaked items to a dry, well-ventilated area. If you must move items outdoors, place them in a secure area to protect them from possible theft.
Make sure your address is visible. If you have to move, leave a sign with your temporary address, phone number, and the name of your insurance company. Try to be present when the adjuster inspects your property.
Should you choose to hire a public adjuster, make sure the adjuster is licensed by TDI. Public adjusters work independently and charge a fee for their services. The adjuster must disclose the fee in the written contract with you. To learn whether a public adjuster is licensed, call TDI.
If you need financial assistance, ask your agent about obtaining an advance payment. Contact your local Red Cross for additional help.
Find a reputable contractor to make repairs. Verify the contractor’s references, have a written contract before repairs begin, and pay only as the contractor completes the repairs.
If you need general insurance information or have a complaint about your insurance company, call the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) at 1-800-252-3439.
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. NFIP policies pay for debris removal but do not pay for temporary living expenses if you have to move from your home. If you have an NFIP policy, report claims to NFIP at 1-800-638-6620.
Mobil homeowners policies usually cover flood damage and may provide some coverage for debris removal and temporary living expenses if you have to move from your home.
If your automobile is flooded
If you have comprehensive “other than collision” coverage, your auto policy will pay for flood damage to your car.
Resources for more information
If you have questions about insurance, call TDI’s Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439 or visit the TDI Web site at www.tdi.state.tx.us.
To report a suspicious fire to TDI’s Arson/Burn Ban Hotline, call 1-877-434-7345.
To report a case of suspected fraud to TDI, call 1-888-327-8818.
You may file a complaint with TDI in a variety of ways: By completing the online complaint form on TDI’s Web site; by e-mail at ConsumerProtection@tdi.state.tx.us; by fax at 512-475-1771; by mail at:
Texas Department of Insurance
Consumer Protection Program
P.O. Box 149091
Austin, TX 78714-9091
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