What to do if your home or business suffered tornado damage

Our prayers to everyone affected by today’s devastating tornados that swept through Tupelo and in and around Northeast Mississippi. Insurance claim

Please stay safe.

One of the things homeowners and business owners have to deal with if there’s damage to their residences or businesses is filing insurance claims. This info is long, but here you go:

AFTER DISASTER STRIKES AND YOUR HOME IS DAMAGED

From Mississippi Insurance Department

• Make sure your home is structurally safe. Be extremely careful inside your home. Debris may be hazardous, and the potential for collapse may exist. If you’re told by authorities to stay out, stay out.
• Notify creditors if bills have been lost or you’re unable to pay.
• Ask your utility company to stop billing if your home is unlivable or has been destroyed.
Prepare to file an insurance claim by gathering all relevant policy numbers.
• File your claim as soon as possible. Call your insurance company or agent with your policy number and other relevant information. Your policy may require that you make the notification within a certain time frame. Be aware, if a widespread disaster has occurred, the company may set up special procedures.
• Be sure you cooperate fully with the insurance company. Ask what documents, forms and data you will need to file a claim. Keep a diary of all conversations with insurance companies, creditors or relief agencies.
• Be certain to give your insurance company all the information they need. Incorrect or incomplete information will only cause a delay in processing your claim.
• If your home is damaged to the extent that you can’t live there, ask your insurance company if you have coverage for additional living expenses.
• Take photographs/video of the damage.
• Make the repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property (cover broken windows, leaking roofs and damaged walls). Don’t have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs. Be prepared to provide the claims adjuster with records of any improvements you made prior to the damage.
• Inventory your home for damaged or lost items before your adjustor arrives. This will speed up your claim process.
• Maintain any damaged personal property for the adjuster to inspect. Ask the adjuster for an itemized explanation of the claim settlement offer.
• Be patient and assist claims adjusters assigned to your case. Small losses may be settled quickly; extensive claims will take longer.
• Save all receipts, including those from the temporary repairs covered by your insurance policy.
• Be wary of contractors who demand upfront payment before work is initiated or payment in full before work is completed. If the contractor needs payment to buy supplies, go with the contractor and pay the supplier directly.
• Get more than one bid. Ask for at least three references. Check with the Better Business Bureau about the contractor. Ask for proof of necessary licenses, building permits, insurance, and bonding. Record the license plate number and driver’s license number of the contractor.
• Work with a qualified tax expert to find out about tax breaks you may be eligible for because of your losses.
• If you have any questions or problems with your claim or insurance company contact the Mississippi Insurance Department Consumer Services Division at (601) 359-2453 or (800) 562 2957.
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HOW TO FILE A CLAIM FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Insurance Information Institute

If a tornado, hurricane, fire or other insured disaster damages or interrupts your business, you will need to file a claim with your insurance company and prepare for the insurance adjuster’s visit.

After you report a claim, your insurance company will either send you a proof of loss form, which you fill out yourself, or schedule an appointment to have an insurance adjuster inspect the site and guide you through the claims process. Adjusters are professionally trained and licensed to assess damage, and different types of claims may require the specialized knowledge of various claims adjusters, so there could be more than one adjuster assigned to help you. For example, you may have a claims professional assess structural damage, a contents specialist to help with the loss of personal property, and a separate adjuster to inspect damage to your car. Additionally, if you have aflood insurance policy or separate coverage for wind damage through a state-run insurance pool, there may be a different claims adjuster assigned.

As part of the claims process, the adjuster (or adjusters) will review all information and your policy to determine coverage, and ask you to obtain estimates for repairs. The more information about the damage you can supply, the faster your claim can be settled.

Following are six steps to help you prepare for the claims process and the adjuster’s visit:
1. Contact your insurer as soon as possible. Make sure your insurance company knows how to reach you if you have evacuated or are unable to live in your home. Customers can reach out to their insurer by phone, Internet or mobile app to start the claims process. Provide your policy number, loss location, cell phone number and back-up contacts, if available. If at all possible, you should try to meet the claims adjuster at your property, providing it is safe to do so.

2. Make any temporary repairs and secure your property. Even before the adjuster arrives, if you can do so safely, take steps to protect your property, prevent further damage and reduce the time it may take to restore it, such as making reasonable temporary repairs to avoid further damage and securing features such as windows, doors and roofs as necessary.

3. Collect business records. Collect any relevant business records that you will need to prove the value of damaged equipment, inventory or structures that you are including in your business insurance claim. For business income (also known as business interruption) claims, you will need proof of income the business was generating both before and after the interruption began, so gather all of your various financial documents including tax returns, monthly sales tax returns, business contracts, budgets, financial statements and other documents pertinent to calculating the projected income of your business. You can then work with your insurer to determine the amount of business income lost.

4. Keep a detailed record of all of the expenses incurred to protect or repair your business. If the business is forced to close down, you will need to provide information on the cost of conducting business from a temporary location, detailed records of business activity, and a list of expenses that have continued while your business has been suspended such as advertising, utilities, etc. Loss of or damage to cars, vans, trucks or specialty vehicles, which can hamper your ability to operate your business, should also be reported.

5. Photograph debris or destroyed items, and ask your insurer if debris can be removed. Generally you should not throw away any damaged items until the claims adjuster has visited. However, if it is necessary to dispose of some items, make your insurance company aware you have done so and photograph or take video of the damage before you discard the items. Many insurers can accept photographic documentation directly online.

6. Stay organized. Remember to retain the insurance claim reference number, adjuster and other insurance company contact information, photographs of the damage, receipts, repair bills and estimates. Keep all your paperwork organized so you can refer to it easily if questions arise.

Once you have reported your claim, you can check the status with your insurer by phone or online. With an online account, you can have access to claim information, register for direct deposit of qualified claim payments on qualified losses, upload documents and correspond with your claims adjuster.

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