How to Deal with Insurance After a Hurricane

Paul Pogue
Written by Paul Pogue
Updated October 7, 2016
man using drill and plywood to cover windows before hurricane
If the protective measures you took before the hurricane failed to prevent damage, document the repairs and notify your insurance company as soon as possible. (Photo courtesy of Sumter County Emergency Management, Florida)

Document the damage and make insurance claims quickly and accurately.

Here are tips for dealing with insured homes or businesses damaged by a hurricane or other major disaster, according to the American Insurance Association:

Before returning home

• Report the loss to your insurance company. If you need help remembering the name of the insurer, call your mortgage company.

• Keep receipts for all lodging and meals required during the disaster, as these expenses may be covered under the “additional living expenses” portion of your policy. To determine pre-loss living expenses, review your checkbook and credit card statements. If you don’t have statements, contact your bank or credit card company.

• Start making a room-by-room list of all the home’s contents, including closets, drawers and the garage. To jog your memory, contact people who may have photos that show your home and some contents.

• If you’re in a hotel, shelter, relative or friend's home, and it's clear you’ll be displaced for some time, consider renting an apartment near your house.

Disaster aid

In areas hardest hit by hurricanes or superstorms, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and local emergency management offices provide specific information for disaster survivors, including safety information and helpful updates regarding assistance for food, shelter, housing and repairs. Contact the FEMA disaster survivor assistance hotline at 1-800-621-3362, or your local emergency management agency.

Once you return home

• If damage is severe, contact local disaster response officials before entering. Report downed power lines or gas leaks. Keep electricity turned off if the building is flooded.

• Take reasonable steps to protect or repair what you can. Cover windows, damaged roofs and walls to prevent further destruction.

• Save receipts for anything you buy for protection or repair. Talk to your insurer, which should reimburse you for reasonable expenses related to repairs to a property damaged by a covered peril.

• When cleaning property, wear protective eyewear, gloves or other gear if available.

Utilities after a disaster

Hurricanes and tropical storms can also cause widespread power disruptions and the potential for dangerous gas leaks — contact your local utility to report an electrical outage or emergency, or check on the status of utility repairs.

Meet with the insurance adjuster or agent

• Meet with your insurance adjuster and/or agent as soon as possible. Provide a general description of damage and have your policy number handy if possible. Write down the adjuster’s name, phone number and work schedule. If you have an agent, he or she will report the loss to the insurer or a qualified adjuster who’ll contact you as soon as possible to inspect damage. Provide your best phone number.

• Get a detailed estimate for permanent repairs from a reliable, licensed and bonded contractor, and give to the adjuster. The estimate should contain proposed repairs, repair costs and replacement prices.

• Keep damaged items or portions of them until the claim adjuster has visited. If you can, photograph or videotape damage to document your claim.

• Prepare a list, as complete as possible, of damaged or lost items so you can itemize damage for your homeowners insurance claim. Make two copies—one for you and one for the adjuster. Include all you can recall: dates of purchase or estimated age, cost at purchase, and estimated replacement cost. If possible, collect canceled checks, invoices, receipts, or other documents to help the adjuster determine the value of the destroyed property.

• Once informed of your claim, the insurer must send necessary claim forms within a certain number of days, as specified by your state. Return completed forms as soon as possible. Ask any questions you have, and note the answers.

Insurance company contact information

Many major insurance companies provide dedicated catastrophe, or CAT, teams that are assigned to deal with specific events like Hurricane Matthew. Here is contact information for some of the nation's largest insurance companies:

AllstateCall: 1-800-547-8676Online: allstate.com

American Family InsuranceCall: 1-800-692-6326Online: amfam.com

Bristol WestCall: 1-800-274-7865Online: bristolwest.com

Farmers and 21st CenturyCall: 1-800-435-7764Online: farmers.com

ForemostCall: 1-800-527-3907Online: foremost.com

GeicoCall: 1-800-841-3000Online: geico.com

Liberty MutualCall: 1-800-225-2467Online: libertymutual.com

Progressive (auto insurance)Call for auto claims: 1-800-776-4737Online: progressive.com

USAACall: 1-800-531-8722Online: usaa.com

State FarmCall: 1-800-732-5246Online: statefarm.com

Progressive (home insurance partners)• Homesite Insurance Group — Report a claim online or call 1-866-621-4823• IDS/Ameriprise — 1-888-894-3523• ASI — 1-866-274-5677• Assurant — 1-800-358-0600• First American — 1-866-874-1295• Occidental — 1-800-780-8423