Many Oklahomans are cleaning up after the storms that swept through the state over the weekend. But the clean-up is just part of the recovery effort. Navigating through the insurance claim process can be confusing and stressful. Here are a few tips to help make it a little bit easier.
1. Know what your insurance covers. This will help you understand when to file a claim in the first place.
• Fallen Trees and Limbs - Much of the damage caused from this weekend’s storms was from fallen trees and limbs. If a tree hits a home or other insured structure, like a detached garage, standard homeowners insurance provides coverage for the damage the tree does to the structure and the contents in it. It does not matter whether you own the tree. If a tree or branches cause damage to your car, comprehensive coverage of an auto policy would cover the cost of repair.
• Flooding - Flood damage is generally not covered by a standard homeowners or renter's insurance policy. But flood damage on your car is covered under comprehensive coverage of your auto insurance policy.
• Lightning - Damage caused by lightning, such as fire, is covered by standard homeowners and business insurance policies. Some home and business insurance policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of lightning striking a home or business. There is also coverage for lightning damage under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.
2. Start the claims process as quickly as possible. Most insurance companies have a time requirement for filing a claim, so contact your insurance company as soon as possible. When reporting your losses, have your insurance information, current contact information and home inventory handy. If you do not have a home inventory, begin making a list of items, going room by room and include as much detail as possible.
Also, if your car sustained damage while in your garage or carport, it is covered by your auto insurance, not homeowners. You will need to file a claim with both companies, your auto carrier will cover the damage to your auto and the homeowners will cover the damage to your carport or garage.
3. Understand the claims process. After you file your claim, your insurance company will send a claims adjuster to your home to assess the damage at no cost to you. The adjuster will walk through your home or property to see the damage. Once the adjuster has completed an assessment, he or she will provide a written report of the loss to your insurance company to determine your claims settlement.
When it comes to paying your claim, you may receive more than one check. The first check will likely be an emergency advance. Any further payments for the contents of your home and other personal property will be made to you. However, if there is a mortgage on your home, the payment for structural damage may be payable to you and your mortgage lender. Lenders may put that money into an escrow account and pay for repairs as the work is completed.
4. Know your rights. The Oklahoma Insurance Consumer Bill of Rights is a summary of your legal rights under state insurance laws. Also, if you feel your insurance company is not responding quickly enough or completing a reasonable investigation into your claim, contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department at 800-522-0071 or visit our website at oid.ok.gov
About the Oklahoma Insurance Department
The Oklahoma Insurance Department, an agency of the State of Oklahoma, is responsible for the education and protection of the insurance-buying public and for oversight of the insurance industry in the state.