When a storm hits, the first thing that comes to mind after ensuring everybody’s safety is recovery and rebuilding. After it finally subsides and you’re left to pick up the pieces, one question lingers on the horizon: “How long after a storm can I file a claim with my insurer?”
The timely filing of insurance claims after a natural disaster cannot be overlooked or neglected. You have to act swiftly and efficiently so that you can access the necessary financial assistance to repair the damages.
It may seem daunting at first, but the process is all about understanding the basics. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process, shed light on the importance of filing claims as soon as possible, and provide you with the information you need to protect your rights as a policyholder.
After the Storm: Weathering the Legal Landscape
The timeframe for filing a claim after a storm is dependent on various factors, such as the type of claim, your state of residence, and the specific terms of your insurance policy.
Generally, insurance policies include a provision that prohibits claims from being initiated more than two years after the cause of action gives rise to your right to collect.
There is a misconception that this always happens on the day the storm hits – but sometimes, that’s not the case. In breach of contract claims, the cause of action begins on the day that your insurance claim has been wrongfully denied, which is an entirely separate process.
Much like a countdown on a ticking bomb, the statute of limitations dictates the period you have to file. For example, under West Virginia’s laws, a claimant has two years to sue for damage to property.
However, if your claim is based on an insurance contract, the period might be different. It’s always best to contact a lawyer for guidance as soon as you’re aware that you’ve suffered damage.
What Should I Do After A Storm?
Safety Measures and Emergency Procedures
When a storm leaves you in ruins, safety should be your number one priority. You must protect yourself and your loved ones by following proper emergency protocol.
First, find a secure location away from potential dangers and seek shelter until the storm has passed. Once the skies have cleared, you can assess any immediate risks like downed power lines or structural damage to your property.
Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to local authorities or emergency services for assistance.
Gathering Initial Documentation for Claims
As soon as you become aware of an impending storm, you should keep all related documents to your insurance policy in a safe place. This includes your policy number, contact information for your insurance provider, and any correspondence you’ve had regarding your coverage.
Having these documents readily available will make the claims process more efficient. Remember, time is of the essence when it comes to gathering initial documentation.
When able, take out your camera or smartphone and start capturing the damage to your property through photographs or videos, as visual evidence will play a vital role in supporting your claim with your insurer.
It also provides a clear record of the extent of the damage to minimize any doubt. Afterward, create a detailed inventory of any personal belongings that were affected or lost during the storm.
Common Types of Storm Damage and Their Impact
- Loss of human life
- Road closures, erosion, and landslide risks
- Livestock loss
- Threats to aquatic species
- Health risks due to water contamination
- Housing displacement
- Economic impacts
When dealing with flood damage, it’s important to contact your lawyer so you can have an expert who will review your policy and insurance coverage.
Hailstorms can occur at any time of the year, but they’re most common in the spring and summer months when thunderstorms are more frequent.
Hail damage is one of the most common claims filed by homeowners and businesses to their insurance companies. In recent years, the total damage from hail in the U.S. was just over $1 billion.
The cost of hail damage has also been rising due to the increased severity and frequency of hailstorms. Wind-driven hail can tear up siding on houses, break windows and blow into houses, break side windows on cars, and cause severe injury or even death to people and animals.
If you’ve suffered hail damage, make sure to reach out to your legal representative so they can expedite your claim for necessary repairs.
Severe convective storms are among the most common, most damaging natural catastrophes in the United States. The result of warm, moist air rising from the earth manifests in various ways, depending on atmospheric conditions – from drenching thunderstorms with lightning to tornadoes, hail, or destructive straight-line winds.
A recently released report by the Insurance Information Institute found that lightning damage claims topped more than $950 million in 2022. The compiled data showed there were around 62,000 claims last year, a significant increase from the past reports.
The average cost per lightning-caused claim was around $15,000 in 2022. When dealing with lightning damage, be vigilant in assessing the extent because it might be far greater than your initial assessment. It would be best to seek the assistance of a trained professional.
According to the National Risk Index of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, strong and damaging winds, often originating from thunderstorms, exceed 58 miles per hour.
Damage from this catastrophic phenomenon can include broken windows, doors and damaged roofs. Powerful gusts can also quickly level an entire house without warning.
When faced with these issues, get the help of a seasoned attorney who has dealt with numerous wind damage claims so you can be confident that your needs will be efficiently addressed.
Steps in Filing a Storm-Related Insurance Claim
Report The Claim To Your Insurance Company
After determining that your home is damaged and needs to be repaired or rebuilt, you should report or file a claim as soon as possible.
You must call your insurance company or agent. If they’re unreachable, try doing it online. Always take note of the complete name of the person that you’re speaking with.
Get In Touch With An Insurance Adjuster
To estimate the extent of the damage, you should get in touch with an insurance adjuster. Before they arrive to inspect the affected area, make a list of all damaged or destroyed personal property.
You should also include the damage to the home and other structures. Provide receipts from when you bought the damaged or destroyed items, if you have them. If you don’t, you can search online to help estimate costs.
If you have time before the adjuster arrives, try to get written bids from contractors. You’re not required to have bids, but it can help. The bids should detail the materials to be used, prices of those materials, and labor on a line-by-line basis.
Determine Your Policy’s Coverage
After the adjuster has figured out how much it will cost to rebuild, repair or replace your home or property, the adjuster will review your policy to calculate how much the insurance company will pay.
Questions You Should Ask Your Insurance Company After A Storm
When contacting your insurance company, you should ask:
- What’s the name and phone number of the person I’m talking to?
- What’s my claim or reference number?
- How long do I have to file a claim?
- Do I need estimates to repair or rebuild before I can file a claim?
- Could you give me a general idea of what my policy will cover?
- Does my policy cover hotel costs? If so, for how much? For how long?
- Could I have information about my deductible?
- Are there separate deductibles for hail, hurricane, or wind damage? What are those?
- Are there any special processes or procedures that I need to know about?
- When can I expect an adjuster to call?
- What other information does the company need to process the claim?
Hire Desai Law For Your Insurance Claims
You’ve been hit by a natural disaster, and now, you only want what’s rightfully yours – we get it.
At Desai Law, we understand the urgency of settling your insurance claim after a storm, and an insurance company that refuses to cooperate will only add to your heavy burden.
We are an experienced team of lawyers who know how to navigate the complexities of the insurance system.
Let us help you file your claim so you can go back to what truly matters – repairing, recovering and rebuilding. Call (304) 974-1974 now for a free consultation.