How to file an insurance claim for flood or storm damage to your NJ home
Residents were evacuated from a flooded neighborhood in Helmetta, a borough in Middlesex County, which was hit particularly hard with flooding Sunday. MyCentralJersey.com
Tropical Storm Henri made its way through the Northeast leaving homeowners with flooded basements and damage to their homes.
On Sunday, the storm ripped through North Jersey, bringing heavy rain that broke records in some towns and will continue to dump more rain in the area on Monday. With flooding and damage reported in multiple areas, here's how homeowners can file an insurance claim after the storm.
Contact your insurer and stop further damage
According to ConsumerReports.com, the first step to file a claim is to get in touch with your insurer or the agent who sold you the homeowners insurance. Your policy may require you to file within a certain time frame, so make sure to contact your agent soon. The insurer can also advise you about what repairs you should make right away to prevent further damage to your home.
Find out what's covered by your policy
A standard homeowners insurance policy covers damage to the home’s structure and personal property, minus a deductible. The amount you're paid will depend on the kind of coverage you have. Though “replacement cost” coverage should cover repairing or replacing your home and any lost or damaged items, “actual cash value” coverage will pay you the value of your home and the damaged items inside.
Avoid filing too many small claims
ConsumerReports.com advises avoiding filing claims that appear to be less expensive than the value of your deductible. That's because if you're filing a lot of claims, your insurer may decide that you're filing too often and raise your premiums. But some storms may prove the exception.
Get ready for the insurance adjuster
Once you've filed a claim, your insurance company will assign an adjuster, who will assess the damage and submit an estimate for review. Due to the pandemic, an adjuster may schedule a virtual appointment to assess the damage reported. But if the damage appears to be considerable or severe, you can ask the insurer to have an adjuster come to your home.
Regardless of whether your adjuster's visit is virtual or in-person, make a list of items that were destroyed or are in need of repair. Include the amount you paid for them and gather any receipts you can find. You can report more damage you discover after the adjuster's appointment.
Depending on your policy, a claim can stay open and may be able to receive additional compensation for many months after the initial report.
Large claim? You may want a public adjuster
If you have a very large claim, you may want to turn to a public adjuster, who works on your behalf and represents you for the claim. But these types of adjusters typically come with a fee. In some states, a public adjuster’s fees are capped, typically at 10% to 12% of the insurance payout. In other states, there are no caps or adjusters simply charge a flat fee.
To find a public adjuster, check with the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters.
Keep notes and get it all in writing
After your adjuster's appointment, keep in touch with the person via text or email so that you have a record of all your communication. Make copies of all your documents and anything your adjuster gives you, such as a list of property lost or damaged. If the adjuster advises you to get repairs, get that permission in writing.
Keep notes about missed appointments, unreturned phone calls, what you discussed, and even whether the adjuster was rude. You probably won't need this information, but it will be useful if any disagreements have to be resolved in court.
Discuss exclusions or limits in your policy
After the appointment, the adjuster or a company representative may give you a better idea of what the insurer intends to pay for the entire claim. If your insurer says your policy doesn't cover all the damages or if you think the compensation is too low, ask the carrier’s representative to explain in writing how the company got to the estimate. If you have custom work in your house, an adjuster may not know how to properly estimate the value. Get an outside estimate from a contractor.
Jessie Gomez is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com and NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.