WHAT TO DO AFTER A PROPERTY LOSS
Whether it’s due to fire, flood, or hurricane, property loss is always traumatic. In the days following the disaster, homeowners can take some basic steps to ensure that they receive the proper compensation from their insurance company. Here are some recommended steps to take in the wake of a property loss.
GET AN ADVANCE (IF YOU NEED IT)
In many cases, natural disasters force an evacuation of your home—and most of the time, you won’t have much time to pack or to plan. As such, you may end up spending a not-insignificant sum of money on hotel rooms, travel expenses, and replacements for your lost clothing, toiletry items, etc.
Often, your homeowners insurance policy will cover these things, and you don’t have to wait for your claim to be processed. If you need money sooner rather than later, call the insurance company and ask for an advance on your policy; in many cases, a representative of the insurance company will bring you a check which you can put toward these unplanned-for expenses.
Be reasonable in how you use your advance. Using your advance to replace lost work clothes is fine, but don’t spring for the super-expensive, designer labels. If you do, your insurance company may hold you accountable for the cost difference.
MAKE SURE YOUR PROPERTY IS SECURE
Your insurance company will expect you to take reasonable precautions to keep your home safe and secure—mitigating damages as much as possible. Specifically:
- If you have a fire in your home, make sure you call the fire department to come put a stop to the smoldering.
- Board up the home to minimize the risk of theft or vandalism.
- Cover up holes in your roof to minimize additional water damage.
- Be vigilant, keeping an eye on the property to identify any new issues or damages that arise.
FILE YOUR CLAIM RIGHT AWAY
Simple advice, but important: Your insurance company will want you to report the loss as soon as possible—and the longer you delay, the more likely it is that you’ll run into trouble getting your claim resolved. Remember that you have plenty of options for contacting your homeowners insurance representative; either calling or sending an email is fine.
KEEP THOROUGH RECORDS
One of the most important things you can do during the claims process is to stay organized. Keep thorough notes of every conversation you have with your insurance company. Hang onto any paperwork they send you. And, make sure you maintain any bills, invoices, or receipts that stem from the property damage—including anything you have to buy to replace lost items, lodging, travel expenses, etc. You’ll have a much easier time getting reimbursed if you keep exacting records.
Note: Even if you end up staying with family and friends until your home is once again inhabitable, you should still keep records, including records for the value of the room, the money your host spends to feed you, etc. Sometimes, you can get the insurance company to reimburse these expenses.
CONTINUE PAYING PREMIUMS
This point may seem a little silly, but it’s important that you continue to pay your premiums. Yes, even for a home that’s been badly damaged or for items that have been destroyed. Disruption to your insurance payments will only complicate and potentially imperil the resolution of your claim.
WORK WITH AN ATTORNEY
Hopefully, your insurance company will come to your rescue—but sadly, that can’t always be counted on. If your insurer doesn’t pay their fair share, or if they drag their feet, you may wish to get an attorney who can defend your rights. McLaurin Law Firm is here to represent any Houston property owner against their insurance company and to help them get the compensation and care they need. Learn more by contacting our lawyers today!
Jason McLaurin is a founding member of McLaurin Law. He has over a decade of experience representing clients at trial, arbitration, and mediation in matters concerning insurance policyholder recovery disputes, complex commercial litigation, and catastrophic personal injury claims. He also represents businesses as outside general counsel for clients in a variety of industries including construction, oil and gas, maritime, technology, and professional services. He is licensed and handles matters in both Texas and Louisiana.