Wolgast Restoration Blog Page

Understanding the Property Insurance Claims Process

Posted by Rich Droste on Fri, Apr 15, 2016 @ 10:54 AM

Insurance_Adjuster.jpgThe property insurance claims process can be confusing and challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. The best way to prepare yourself for filing a property insurance claim is to know and understand your homeowner’s insurance policy.

  • Read your insurance policy carefully. If you don’t have one, request a copy from your insurance company.
  • If you have any questions abut your policy, or don’t understand something, discuss it with your insurance agent.
  • Be organized. Keep track of important documents, contracts and contact information.

During the insurance claims process you will be working closely with an insurance claims adjuster. The adjuster is usually assigned by your insurance agent or company to handle your claim. The claims adjuster is professionally trained and certified to assess the property damage, evaluate and settle your claim. The claims adjuster may often take reasonable steps to assist you with analyzing the loss, but it is ultimately your responsibility to document the damage and to prove the value of your belongings to the insurance company.

Your insurance company may either send you a Proof of Loss form to fill out, or your adjuster will visit your home first. Either way, the more information you obtain about your damaged property and belongings, the faster your claim will be settled.

Tips for working with your insurance company

  • Understand exactly what is covered by your insurance policy by thoroughly reading through it and asking questions of your insurance agent or adjuster.
  • Make a detailed list of damaged and destroyed items. As you discover damaged items, write them down on the list and include their original purchase price and replacement cost. If you are able to find the original sales receipts, it will help speed up the claims process. If your property was destroyed, or you no longer have any records of your purchases or proof of your belongings, do your best to work from memory. If you can locate photographs that were previously taken inside your home before the disaster, it may help you remember items to be added to your damaged property list.
  • Photograph or videotape damaged items to prove their existence and level of damage.
  • Do not throw out damaged items until your insurance adjuster has inspected them and you both agree on their value.
  • Keep copies of all documents your insurance company provides you.
  • Record the names and phone numbers of everyone you speak to regarding your property loss, restoration and insurance claim.
  • If you don’t have insurance, you should still take inventory of all damaged items. You may be able to deduct the losses from your income taxes.

Remember, it is always your responsibility to prove the scope and value of your loss to the insurance company. Your insurance policy is only a contract between you and your insurance company, obligating both parties to perform specific actions. The insurance company is not responsible for repairing the structure or restoring/replacing your personal property. It is only the insurance company’s responsibility to inspect and review the information available to them and offer to pay the fair value of the claim, according to the language of the policy, to get your property back to it’s pre-loss condition.

To start your claims process after a disaster, you should only engage one restoration company to perform a damage estimate. There can be significant financial disadvantages to getting estimates from multiple contractors. You should interview as many restoration contractors as you deem necessary to find a reputable, experienced company that you are confident will perform the repairs to your satisfaction. Then, engage that company to help you throughout the damage estimating and recovery process.

Topics: homeowners insurance

Making Temporary Living Arrangements After a Disaster Strikes Your Home

Posted by Rich Droste on Tue, Mar 08, 2016 @ 12:06 PM

movng-into-a-new-home.jpgDepending on the size and scope of the damage, it may be necessary for you to make new living arrangements after a disaster strikes your home.

There are several reasons why you may not be able to occupy your home after a disaster, and during the restoration process. The most common reason is that it is unsafe to be in the home due to poor air quality from smoke or mold growth. Even after a fire has long been extinguished, the air is still contaminated with corrosive soot particles and chemicals released from burned materials, such as plastics, that can severely damage the lungs and irritate mucous membranes in the nose. Water and moisture left over from extinguishing the fire can rapidly cause mold growth. The mold spores can easily become airborne and spread from room to room. Breathing in mold spores can cause many different respiratory health issues, especially to children or people with asthma or allergies.

Certified restoration and mitigation professionals, wearing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), and following stringent safety guidelines, are the only persons qualified to occupy and work within these contaminated spaces.

Below are some things you should take into consideration if you are forced to leave your home after a disaster.

Find New Living Arrangements:

  • Find new living arrangements close to work, school, and home. This will help minimize the disruption to your everyday routine and provide more convenient access to your home during the restoration project.
  • Choose your living accommodations based on what you will be comfortable with during the length of time it takes to complete the home repairs. When choosing a location, your insurance company should take your previous living requirements into consideration, so you and your family are as comfortable as possible.
  • Extended stay hotel suites or month-by-month apartment rentals are recommended, if your insurance policy covers the cost.
  • Living with friends or relatives is a good choice if your stay does not interrupt their lives for too long and puts a strain on your relationship.
  • Take with you as many everyday possessions as you can to make you and your family feel more at home, such as: children’s toys; books; games; electronic devices; cooking utensils; dinnerware; blankets; etc.

Secure Your Property and Belongings:

  • Remove all valuable possessions and personal belongings from your home. Do not leave any documents behind that contain financial, banking, or medical information.
  • Make sure all electrical appliances remaining in the home are unplugged and protected from damage during the restoration process.
  • Have your mail forwarded to your new living location, or have the Post Office hold it for you to pick up at your convenience.
  • Make sure your damaged home is properly locked, secured, or boarded up to prevent intrusion by people or natural elements. It is your legal responsibility to do this. Your restoration contractor will perform this service for you.
  • Contact your local police department to let them know your home will be vacant, and ask them to periodically check it to prevent theft or vandalism.

Manage Your Expenses and Documentation:

  • Open up a separate checking account just to handle the money dedicated to the restoration repairs. This will help you accurately track your expenses, and keeps them separate from your everyday household funds.
  • Save the receipts from any living expenses you incur during your stay away from home. Your insurance company may reimburse you for food, lodging, clothing, etc. In some cases, you may be able to claim expenses on your income taxes that were not covered by insurance.
  • Since you will be away from your property during the restoration or reconstruction process, be sure to exchange phone numbers with your restoration Project Manager. This will ensure a consistent line of communication during the project.
Keep all your insurance claim documentation and receipts in a pocket folder and store it in a safe location so it doesn’t get lost or damaged.

Topics: homeowners insurance

4 Helpful Tips for Choosing a Restoration Contractor

Posted by Rich Droste on Fri, Jul 11, 2014 @ 09:49 AM

Helpful Restoration TipsExperiencing property loss due to a flood, fire or other disaster can be a very stressful and confusing event for the building owner. For that reason alone, it is very important that you choose a qualified restoration contractor who can answer any questions you have about the restoration process, to help alleviate your concerns. The project manager should listen closely to you and offer an open line of communication to guide you through the entire restoration process, without making you feel uncomfortable. This will ensure the project runs smoothly and gets completed on time, and to your satisfaction.

Certified restoration contractors are required to meet a strict set of standards, dictated by insurance companies and industry organizations to restore property to its pre-loss condition. If a restoration project is done improperly, it can result in mold growth or other toxic hazards that can cause serious health issues for the occupants.

Before choosing a restoration contractor, research your options carefully and take these four tips into consideration:

Tip #1: Do Not Choose a Friend or Family Member in the Construction Business

We’ve all heard the horror stories about someone who hired their handy brother-in-law with construction experience to put a new roof on their home, and it turned out to be a disaster. It is never a good idea to try to save money and cut corners by hiring a friend or family member to make building repairs that are beyond their skill level. This usually harms the relationship and costs more time and money in the long run.

Tip #2: Do Not Choose the Contractor Who Built Your Home or Building

General contractors and construction companies who mostly build new construction do not have adequate insurance restoration experience. They lack the equipment, experience and certified training required to perform water mitigation, smoke odor removal, content restorative cleaning, deodorizing and handling techniques. Also, they may not understand the proper methods for reconstruction and repairs under these unique conditions, not to mention how to identify and deal with the hazardous materials and dangerous structural conditions, after a disaster.

Tip #3: Do Not Choose a Contractor Who Has Little, or No Experience Working With Insurance Companies

As the insurance policy holder, it is your responsibility to disclose any loss to the insurance company and provide the necessary documentation required to process the claim. You will need an estimate from a restoration company that meets the strict insurance company requirements, created using specific estimating software. If the estimate format does not meet the insurance company standards, it may be rejected.

Tip #4: Do Not Choose a Cleaning Service

Carpet cleaning and house cleaning services are great for everyday, small-scale cleaning jobs. But when it comes to flooding, fire, and smoke damage, they don’t have the technical capabilities or knowledge to remove high levels of moisture that infiltrates the floors and walls, causing dangerous mold to accumulate in a matter of days. Smoke damage also goes far beyond the soot that is left on walls, ceilings and furniture. If not cleaned and deodorized properly, it can leave behind microscopic toxins and fine particulates that can be hazardous to the health of the occupants.

Years of experience and extensive training are required to be a certified restoration contractor, and obviously, there are many good reasons for that.

Topics: Water Damage, Wolgast Restoration, homeowners insurance, Restoration Contractor

Don’t Wait For The Rain to Check Your Flood Coverage!

Posted by Rich Droste on Mon, Jul 07, 2014 @ 03:18 PM

It’s been raining all day, for three days and you coDSCN1645 resized 600me home to find water has made its way into your basement.  Typically, you’d start to move everything off the floor that could be damaged and anything that could possibly be salvaged, start baling water and call your insurance agent.  Your agent, who you’ve been with since you bought your house 15 years ago, tells you your homeowners policy doesn’t have flood coverage.  But you have homeowners insurance; isn’t that what it’s for?

You’re paying for insurance to cover your home, so why wouldn’t you assume if your home floods, it’s covered?  This situation happens much more often than we’d like to think.   Just ask your local insurance agent.  All too often when new homeowners insurance policies are being written, homeowners aren’t thinking about disasters actually happening.  Some say, “When I purchased my house, the previous owners said they never had water in the basement,” or maybe you were a bit more proactive and double-checked your address wasn’t in a high-risk flood zone.  So skipping on flood coverage doesn’t seem like a big deal on the bright and sunny day you’re getting this new policy.  Now, your insurance agent more than likely told you what your policy covers and doesn’t cover when writing it, but, with this economy today, people are seeking insurance policies with the cheapest option in mind.  And the inexpensive ones don’t include a separate flood policy in addition to your homeowners insurance.  You always have to ask for an additional policy to cover flood damage.

It’s awful to hear about a flood in someone’s home, and worse yet to find out they don’t have flood coverage in their insurance policy.  I’m sure anyone who learned this lesson the hard way, will tell you to reconsider paying extra for the coverage.  Since I own a home in a high risk flood zone, I have to carry flood insurance, but for those whose mortgage company doesn’t require it, here are some facts that might make you think twice:

  • Everyone theoretically lives in a flood zone

  • Most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage

  • Just an inch of water can cause costly damage to your property

  • If you live in a moderate-to-low risk area and are eligible for the Preferred Risk Policy, your flood insurance premium may be as low as $129 a year, including coverage for your property's contents

Those stats, and more, can be found at www.floodsmart.gov, the official website for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), specifically designated for flood information by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).   Check out that website to learn more about flooding & flood risks, you can even look up your address and what flood zone you’re in and tips for preparation & recovery.

Beware that flood insurance can be a little tricky too, so make sure you know what you’re paying for.  Some only cover the building, only the contents OR the policy can cover both.  Flood Insurance deductibles can be much higher also.  When looking into any policy, always make sure you know what is and is NOT covered.  Leaving what is covered to assumption can lead to a disaster in itself!  So stop reading this blog and find your policy to see if you’re covered before it starts raining again. 

Topics: Flooding, homeowners insurance, flood policy