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Steps to Take After a Natural Disaster to Make Sure Your Claim Is Paid

While making it through a natural disaster such as Hurricane Sandy seems difficult enough, often the aftermath and restoring your home to the way it used to be can take months and be an exercise in frustration and delays. If you live on the East Coast and have damage to your home thanks to Hurricane Sandy, here are some steps you can take to make sure your claim gets paid in a timely manner (which in itself is difficult considering the level of destruction).

1. Contact your insurance agent or claims department as soon as possible. After the initial phone call, get in touch by e-mail to begin to create a paper trail documenting the process.

2. Take steps to prevent any further damage to your home.  If a window was blown out, board it up. If you have a hole in your roof, cover it with a tarp. However, before you take steps to prevent any further damage, make sure you take pictures of your house, both inside and out, so you can document the damage. Also, if you don’t already have a list of your valuables made, make one and start to document what has been damaged and lost. If your valuable items are ruined, don’t throw them away. Keep them until you can meet with the insurance adjuster.

3. Contact reputable contractors.  Beware that many scam artists come out after natural disasters posing as contractors. Make sure you contact a local, reputable company to minimize the chance of being scammed. Get the contractors’ estimates for repairs, but don’t agree to anything yet. You’ll need to wait until you meet with the insurance adjuster.

4. Meet with the insurance adjuster.  In the face of such devastation, meeting with an insurance adjuster may take several weeks. Kiplinger’s recommends being at home to meet with the insurance adjuster and asking the contractor to come too so all parties are in agreement of the repairs that need to be made.

5. Keep all of your receipts. Staying organized when it feels like your entire life is in chaos is difficult, but your organizational skills can mean the difference between a prompt payment and one that takes months. Keep all receipts, and document who did what. Also keep your receipts for your lodging and food if you are forced out of your home. Your insurer may pay all or a portion of those bills.

6. Stay in touch with FEMA. FEMA has set up a web page dedicated to Hurricane Sandy [3]. You can go there to check to see if you are eligible for FEMA aid. The site also has a helpful blog that contains posts about keeping your children safe in the aftermath of a natural disaster as well as how to apply for assistance and the next step after you apply.

For even further details about how to work with your insurer to restore your home, please read Kiplinger’s post, 8 Steps to Help Get Your Hurricane Claim Paid Quickly [4].

If you have made it through the recovery process after a natural disaster, what other suggestions can you give?