The article below is typical of those into which we are invited some time after a loss.  We, as a society, have been brought up to trust our insurance company.  We’ve known agents who have serviced policies for 3 generations.  Sometime about 20-30 years ago carriers got so large that claims departments were used to independently verify and adjust losses whereas prior to that time many agents did that task or were responsible to hire some to do it.  I believe that as the agency’s influence became more removed from the adjustment of the loss the insured’s feeling of being just a “number” became far more prevalent.  This fact can be seen within the article below and how mistrusting and even adversarial the relationship can become.

Pennsylvania public adjuster storm damage

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Minn. Homeowners Combat Insurance Companies over Storm Damage Claims

By: Stephen Tellier

When bad weather hits, insurance may save the day. But some homeowners are finding out the hard way that they weren’t covered like they hoped. And soon, the Minnesota Supreme Court could weigh in on exactly how much money you’re entitled to when your home gets hit with hail or high winds.

Many homeowners are still dealing with claims from last year’s severe weather season, and many are upset about one particular argument coming from the insurance companies.

“They don’t give a damn,” said Harry Wirth, whose Minnetonka home was hit with hail last July. “It damaged the roof to the point where we started to have leaks.”

He has pretty much had it.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘Why do I even have insurance?'” Wirth said.

Nearly one year later, the tarps are still up on his roof.

Wirth said a contractor quoted him $32,000 to repair the entire roof. But his insurance company, American Family Insurance, offered $8,000, telling him it would only repair the shingles that were actually damaged.

“They feel that it can be repaired and new shingles can be blended into old, which is entirely wrong,” Wirth said. “I don’t think you see any house with one type of shingles on one part, and a different on another. That’s not acceptable in the United States of America.”

Wirth is certainly not alone, and a similar case is currently before the Minnesota Supreme Court.

In that case, Cedar Bluff Townhome Condominium Association, Inc. vs. American Family Mutual Insurance Company, a condo association is fighting American Family, in the wake of a storm in 2010. The insurer offered to pay to replace only damaged siding on 20 buildings, even though the new siding wouldn’t perfectly match the old siding — replacing all of it would double the costs of the claim.

Wirth said, so be it.

“We’re going to go and have appraisals on the house, and we’re going to court. Luckily, we have the resources to do that. But a lot of people wouldn’t do that. They’d just take the beating,” Wirth said.

And he has a message for all homeowners.

“You better double check your insurance real hard before you make your next premium payment,” Wirth said.

With respect to Wirth’s claim, American Family Insurance tells FIVE EYEWITNESS NEWS, “We have had ongoing communication with the customers beginning with our initial contact regarding what their homeowner policy covers, and are, in turn, paying for those damages that occurred to their home from the storm. We have continued to meet and communicate with them to address these and other concerns and are still working with them to find a resolution to their claim.”

American Family also provided the following statement:

“… for all our customers, our objective is – and we are always working to – resolve claims, pay what we owe and treat our customers fairly and respectfully. That means paying for damage that is covered by the customer’s insurance policy. We are committed to doing what’s right, which means evaluating each claim on its own individual merits, treating our customers with respect and offering a clear explanation of our decisions. We advise our customers to speak with their agents about their policies so they know exactly what is covered, ensure they have the right amount of coverage, and to determine if they need or want additional coverages. Then they can choose the policy that is right for them.”

This is not an issue unique to American Family Insurance. The Insurance Federation of Minnesota said most insurance companies have changed their policy language to state they will only pay for damaged material, not cosmetic damage.

Insurers also point out that some homeowners “pray for hail,” hoping insurance will pay for a new roof when they should have paid for one themselves years ago. They say if insurers are forced to pay for entirely new roofs or siding in such situations, premiums would likely rise for everyone else.

As knowledgeable insurance professionals we are able to advise and assist the insured during the  process.  Sometimes the carrier is correct in its evaluations or coverage interpretations and we are in a better position to explain the news.  Sometimes the carrier is only correct to a point and missed an important detail that might extend coverage or add thousands of dollars to the value of the loss.  This is quite common situation and we excel at understanding the complexities of property losses and are better able to give proper evaluations of them and encourage your proper indemnification.

The article below we also found helpful.  Be advised that it contains provisions which are inconsistent with how claims are handled in the mid-Atlantic region, but as it generally contains sage advise we chose to re-print it here for you. 

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If your home has been damaged, exposure to the elements may greatly increase the amount of damage to you home. Many insurance policies limit your time to file a claim, so don’t wait until you have water dripping through the ceiling, mold in the attic, or your roof caves in to call your insurance company. It might be too late to file a valid storm damage claim.

Be wary of insurance company “approved” contractors who have a financial incentive to save the insurance company money at your expense. Protect yourself by hiring a reputable contractor to represent your best interests. You have paid your homeowners insurance, so make sure you get the maximum value for your claim.

Insurance Claim Tips

  • Don’t Delay! Most insurance policies limit your time to file a claim
  • You can’t be singled out for a rate increase due to storm damage
  • Insurance restoration contractors advocate for you
  • Always hire the best contractor, not the cheapest
  • Beware of insurance company “approved” contractors
  • Always do your homework and understand your rights

Insurance Claims Process

Filing a storm damage insurance claim can be a frustrating and confusing process. You should remember that your insurance company is in business to make money and may try to deny your claim. So we’ve created a 7 Step Guide to make the claims process easy to understand.

Step 1: Assess the storm damage. Record the date of the storm, signs of damage you can see from the ground, and take pictures of any damage. Search online for news stories of the storm hitting your area, so you have proof if it is ever required.

Step 2: Contact several reputable storm repair contractors and obtain 3 written proposals. Make sure your contractor performs a full property inspection, including the roof, windows, siding, AC units, screens, concrete and all other exterior surfaces.

Step 3: Read your insurance policy carefully and contact the claims department of your insurance company directly. Be prepared to provide pictures, and the estimate from the contractor you have chosen to work with.

Step 4: Request an insurance adjuster inspection. Insist your contractor is present during the adjuster inspection. Your contractor’s job is to make sure the adjuster plays fair, and provides you with a fair assessment. Remember, the insurance adjuster works for the insurance company and may have an incentive to deny your claim, if they think they can.

Step 5: If your claim is denied, don’t worry. You are entitled to meet with three insurance adjusters. Remember, even a small amount of damage should result in an approved claim. Any type of damage can devalue your home and damage should be fixed immediately before it leads to greater damage down the road.

Step 6: Once your claim is approved your insurance company will send you 2 separate payments. The first payment, or materials deposit, covers the cost of materials. Make sure your contractor orders materials in your name, and uses your check to pay for your materials.

Step 7: After your materials are delivered, your contractor will get to work. Any changes to the written bid should be submitted in writing for your approval. No additional payment is due until all the repairs are complete. Once your project has passed a city inspection, you will have a chance to approve the job before making final payment. Make sure the job is done to your satisfaction and your contractor signs a lien waiver, before handing over the second payment.

When filing an insurance claim, remember most state laws prohibit insurance companies from cancelling policies for filing claims in an Act of God storm damage situation. In most states insurance company cannot single you out for a rate increase. If the insurance company is going to raise rates, they have to raise everyone’s rates in your area. So, if you don’t file a claim, your personal rate increase will pay for everyone else’s claim except for yours.

Remember, Mercury Adjustments, LLC is fully capable of providing advise and assistance to navigate the waters of claim processing, advocate for your benefits under your policy of insurance, and seek proper evaluation and indemnification of the loss.  Please contact us for a free consultation