Navigating insurance claims, post Hurricane Irma

Personal Finance

Another reason to act fast: Insurers often handle claims on a first-come, first-serve basis, J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, told CNBC earlier this year.

Consumers likely need to make several calls. (Ideally, policy numbers and agent contacts would have been part of an emergency “go bag.”)

Homeowners: You may have several kinds of coverage. In addition to a primary homeowners insurance policy, some homeowners may also have separate wind damage coverage via the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, and flood insurance with the National Flood Insurance Program or a private insurer, Worters said.

Even if you don’t have flood insurance (only about 12 percent of homeowners nationwide do), call your home insurer, said Peter Kochenburger, deputy director of the Insurance Law Center at the University of Connecticut School of Law. Homeowners policies specifically exclude damage related to flooding, but water and wind damage are separate issues. (For example, you could be covered for water damage resulting from wind damage to the roof, or a flying tree branch that broke a window, he said.)

“Don’t assume you don’t have coverage,” he said.

Auto: The comprehensive portion of your auto insurance typically would cover damage from downed trees, flooding and other storm-related damage, up to the vehicle’s market value, Worters said.

Travel: Floridians currently traveling should reach out to their travel insurance provider, if they bought a policy for their trip. The “trip interruption” portion could kick in for policyholders who need to cut short their travels due to the hurricane damaging property, said Megan Singh, project management director for insurance marketplace Squaremouth.

“They could actually be covered to return home,” she said — including the cost of a new flight and reimbursement for hotel nights and other prepaid expenses left unused as a result of the shortened trip. Call your insurer to confirm the policy details.

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