Americans are well aware of the impact major storms have on properties. When hurricane season approaches each year, people in areas where these storms hit the hardest should review their insurance policies to make sure they are covered and all of their information is current. Those who are not properly protected should buy coverage before it is too late.
Hurricane season officially starts on the first day of June and runs through the last day of November. Regardless of where a person lives in hurricane-prone areas, the flood waters and strong winds of these storms can render their properties into piles of rubble in a short amount of time. When a hurricane begins developing, many people rush out to buy insurance. However, most companies will not issue new policies after a storm has started. Policies are only issued when no storm threats are active.
Experts say that planning ahead is the only way to financially weather a hurricane. The first and most important step for people who have policies is to review their existing coverage. Every person should know what his or her policy excludes or includes. If anything is not included that a person feels should be included, it is important to contact an agent immediately. There are usually several options for riders to insurance policies. It is also important to ask an agent if any uncertainties or other concerns arise.
While some homeowners policies include deductibles for hurricane or wind losses, other insurance companies charge separately for this at the choice of the policyholder. This deductible is the amount that the policyholder must pay before the insurer will cover the remainder of the damages up to the agreed coverage amount. Hurricane and wind deductibles are usually written off as specific amounts. Alternately, the deductible might be applied toward a loss percentage of insurance coverage on a structure. For example, if the damage amounted to $6,000 and the home was insured for $200,000 with a deductible of two percent, the homeowner would pay $4,000. The insurer would pay $2,000. Deductible amounts vary based on geographic locations.
Experts remind people that the majority of damages come from flooding and not high winds. Most policies do not cover flooding. Standard policies cover water damage, but the amount of water brought on by a hurricane is considered flooding. There are federal policies available for flood insurance, so anyone who lives in an area where a hurricane or tropical storm could cause a flood should talk to an agent about obtaining this coverage. It is important to know that there is a waiting period before a flood policy takes effect, so homeowners should not delay in seeking coverage.
People living in affected areas should also do the following:
- Find out if an insurance company covers replacement costs or cash value for losses.
- Ensure that all contents of the home and their full values are covered in the event of a hurricane. Additional coverage may be necessary.
- Make sure vehicles are covered for wind and flood damages.
- If sewer backup coverage has not been purchased, it is important to obtain it.
Insurers everywhere encourage homeowners to keep policy copies in safe but easily accessible places. They also ask homeowners to keep their agents’ numbers in their phone contact lists and know which person and what company to contact if hurricane damages occur. This will make it easier to start a claim immediately. Homeowners should make an inventory of all of their personal property and decide on a total value. Special items such as art, firearms and valuable jewelry may need separate coverage. While it is ideal to store valuables in safe places or take them along when evacuation orders are given, this may not always be possible with all special items. To learn more about enhancing coverage, discuss concerns with an agent.