Preparing for Hurricane Season
The National Hurricane Center has announced the first hurricane of the Atlantic season. The storm, named Danny, is currently charted to hit the Caribbean islands, but could cause some tropical storms for the Gulf of Mexico and Texas.
Here are 5 things every Texan do in preparation for hurricane season or any natural disaster:
- Review your insurance policy every year to make sure you have the coverage you need. Policyholders need to have enough coverage to fully protect themselves in the event of a total loss. In particular, pay attention to the exclusions and policy limits written into your policy and be aware of the deductible and type of replacement cost.
- Take a comprehensive inventory of the contents of your home. In addition to a paper inventory with descriptions and serial numbers, take pictures or video. This information can be vital if you have to file a claim with your insurance company. Click here to view the Texas Department of Insurance’s comprehensive homeowners insurance inventory list. Be sure to store the inventory and supporting documents – along with copies of your insurance policy – in a safe place, ideally away from your home.
- Get Windstorm and/or Flood insurance. Damage related to wind or floods is not covered by your home insurance policy. So, to be fully covered, coastal homeowners need to buy a separate windstorm insurance policy and anyone living in or near a flood-prone area should buy a flood insurance policy. Information about flood insurance is available here and ask your agent about options for windstorm insurance. Also, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) has created a useful handout comparing homeowners, wind and flood insurance policies.
- In case disaster does strike and you have to file a claim, protect yourself against unfair claims handling. Filing an insurance claim can be an overwhelming process. Here are some tips to protect yourself. The most important thing to remember is to document everything, contact your insurance company right away, and keep good records of all of your interactions with representatives of your insurance company, including your agent, adjuster, and customer service representative. Also, never sign any documents or cash any checks from the insurance company without understanding what it means for your claim.
- Hire a lawyer and file a complaint if your insurance company is low-balling, slow-playing, or otherwise treating you unfairly. The insurance companies have armies of attorneys working for them. So, don’t be afraid to hire a lawyer if you need help navigating the claims process and resolving problems. If you need an attorney, contact the State Bar’s toll free Lawyer Referral hotline at 1-800-252-9690. And, file a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance at 1-800-252-3439. TDI can’t resolve your dispute (that’s why you need a lawyer), but it’s important to record your concerns with them so that they can take appropriate steps to protect the public.