LOUISIANA — As Louisiana homeowners begin to assess the damage caused by Hurricane Isaac, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon is offering advice and resources for property owners to assist them in filing a claim and working with insurance adjusters and agents. The Louisiana Department of Insurance (LDI) website includes step-by-step guidance, and the Post Disaster Insurance Guide available there contains information on filing a claim for hurricane damage, minimizing your loss, cleaning up after the storm, things to consider when hiring a contractor, dealing with health insurance, life insurance or business insurance after a storm, and much more.
“After a disaster, it is important to call your insurance agent or the insurance company’s claims hotline and have your policy number and other relevant information readily available,” said Commissioner Donelon. “Filing a claim for the first time can be a challenging process, so I encourage policyholders who have questions or are in need of assistance to please contact the LDI. That’s why we’re here.”
Commissioner Donelon noted that while the extent of the flooding is undetermined at this time, it is clear that the flood-related damage will be extensive. “Isaac clearly presents a teaching moment about the necessity of having a flood insurance policy. The National Flood Insurance Program is nearly $18 billion in the red – and that’s largely due to the massive flooding from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that resulted in about $15 billion in Louisiana flood claims. Louisiana flood insurance policyholders benefit more than any other state by far when it comes to the National Flood Insurance Program.”
Some of the most damaging floods after a hurricane actually occur hundreds of miles from the coast. That was the case in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav as it flooded hundreds of homes in the Alexandria and Monroe areas as it traveled through our state.
The LDI offers the following tips on filing a claim, understanding hurricane deductibles and hiring a contractor:
Guidance on Filing a Claim
Your policy might require that you make the notification of loss within a certain time frame. Be sure to keep a record of the conversation with notes on all pertinent information.
Find out what documents, forms and data you will need to file a claim from your agent. Provide your insurance company with accurate, detailed information. Incorrect or incomplete information will cause a delay in processing your claim.
Your company will submit a loss form and an adjuster will be assigned to your claim. If you have multiple insurance policies, such as a homeowners policy, a flood policy and a windstorm policy, and aren’t sure which policy to file the claim under, use your best judgment. You may need to file your claim with all three policies. The adjuster will take care of determining which policy covers which part of your loss.
If your home is damaged to the extent that you cannot live there, ask your insurance company if your policy covers additional living expenses. Be sure to give the phone numbers and addresses where you can be reached day or night to your insurance company or agent.
If you need to make temporary repairs to prevent further damage to your property from the weather or from looting, such as boarding up windows or placing plastic over a leaking roof, keep a list of all work done and save receipts for all materials used. Do not sign any agreements with contractors for repairs until you have spoken with your insurance company.
An insurance company has up to 30 days to pay your claim after you give them satisfactory proof of loss, although sometimes you will receive a check quickly.
Commissioner Donelon advises policyholders to review their policies for a hurricane deductible. “This deductible became common on policies following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. We now have much higher named storm deductibles applicable to our homeowners policies. Deductibles can range from one to 15 percent, but typically run between two and five percent.”
This means, for example, that a homeowner with a $150,000 policy on their structure who has a two percent hurricane deductible would pay $3,000 out of pocket if they sustained roof damage.
“These types of deductible were unusual prior to Katrina and Rita, but are now nearly universal, not only here in Louisiana, but across all coastal states on the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico,” Donelon added.
Advice on Hiring a Contractor
The LDI offers the following advice regarding hiring a contractor:
Most of the time, an insurance company does not recommend a contractor, so be wary of those who claim the insurance company sent them. Always ask to see something in writing.
Do not do business with a contractor who cannot show proof of insurance.
You can also call your Better Business Bureau to learn if there have been any complaints filed against the contractor
Be on the lookout for out-of-state con artists who may have just breezed into town to take advantage of the local situation.
Also be wary of contractors who demand payment in full before work is completed.
Consumers can contact the LDI for assistance with their insurance-related questions. They can also call the LDI if they have trouble resolving a dispute with a company or agent (producer), if they need to learn more about an insurance company, or if they want to report suspected insurance fraud.