As Hurricane Harvey has flooded Southern Texas and Louisiana, business owners are left scrambling to protect not only their personal property but their businesses as well. If you are facing property loss and the resulting insurance claims, there are several things to keep in mind.
After the wind has subsided and the waters have recessed, you will need to begin the process of reporting your claim to your independent insurance agent and your insurance company. It is important to stay engaged with your agent and the insurance company adjuster as you work through the claim adjustment process.
The following checklist will assist you in gathering the necessary information your insurance carrier will require in order to process your claim in a timely manner.
- Document your damage with photos or videos as soon as possible.
- Protect your property from further damage and make temporary repairs, if possible. Your policy requires you to make every effort to protect the property from suffering additional damage but do not begin permanent repairs. This may mean placing a tarp over the roof or boarding up broken windows and doors.
- If the property is structurally unsound or unsafe you must report this to your local police and fire department.
- Contact a professional and capable mitigation company to abate any water and/or smoke damage. Your insurance agent will be able to recommend a resource for you.
- Secure the property as necessary.
- Maintain a record of all expenses incurred in protecting the property and provide this information to your insurance adjuster.
- Separate damaged from undamaged business personal property if at all possible. Do not discard of any damaged property as your insurance adjuster will want to inspect these items.
- Prepare an inventory of the damaged Business Personal Property. Provide a detailed description of the damaged items, list the quantity and your estimated value of the damaged items. Include any available bills, receipts, appraisals and any related documents that will support your valuation.
- Do not dispose of the damaged property until your claims adjuster approves of the disposal. The adjuster will need to inspect the property and determine if there is any salvage value for the items.
- Be prepared to provide additional information requested by your claims adjuster.
A majority of the property damage caused by Hurricane Harvey will be caused by flooding. Flood damage is typically excluded by most property insurance policies, so you will want to carefully review your particular policy with your agent to determine if Flood is a covered cause of loss. If your property policy affords flood coverage, follow the guide above to manage your claim with your insurance carrier.
If you have purchased a Flood Insurance Policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), FEMA has a specific Flood Claims Process outlined on their website: https://www.fema.gov/nfip-file-your-claim
To successfully navigate the property claims process, it is vital that you work closely with your independent insurance agent and the insurance adjuster assigned by your insurance carrier.
Due to the volume of claims Hurricane Harvey will create, it may take 48 hours or more until you are contacted by the claims adjuster. Insurance carriers are re-assigning additional personnel to the gulf region in order to assist with the increased volume of claims.
Be sure to be in contact with your independent insurance agent to review your Commercial Property and Inland Marine coverage forms. Your insurance program may include enhancement endorsements that provide additional limits of insurance that can be applied to your loss, so ask your insurance agent to review these coverage terms with you as well.
The havoc wreaked by Hurricane Harvey is an important reminder to business owners that unexpected loss and damage can occur at any time, particularly by external forces that can’t be controlled. Having an emergency plan in place to combat unexpected loss and damage is key to remaining successful in the face of disaster.