AUSTIN, Texas — Many residents in El Paso are spending the beginning of the week dealing with a major cleanup as violent weather ripped through the town on Friday. The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) says the first step to recovery is contacting your insurer to begin the claims process.
“Contact your insurance company or agent as soon as possible to begin the claims process. Insurers plan for catastrophes and are prepared to assist homeowners immediately,” said Joe Woods, PCI’s vice president of state government relations in Texas.
Most severe weather related events like hail and tornados are covered under either a homeowners, renters or commercial insurance policy. Renters insurance covers a policyholder’s personal possessions damaged by hail and windstorms. Likewise, windstorm and hail damage on cars is covered by the comprehensive coverage in an auto insurance policy.
Too often shady roofing contractors, public adjusters and trial lawyers try to use hail storms as an opportunity to profit off of the misfortune of storm victims. Before signing any documents related to storm damage repairs, PCI encourages residents to talk with their insurance company first. Be suspicious of any contractor who tries to rush you, especially on non-emergency or temporary repairs. Always have a written, detailed contract that clearly states everything the contractor will do, including prices for labor and materials, clean-up procedures, and estimated start and finish dates. Additionally, don’t hire a contractor that requires all payments before work is completed.
“It’s important for homeowners to realize there are fraudsters waiting to take advantage of storm victims that are in the process of filing a claim,” said Woods.
“There is a growing problem with public adjustors, contractors and by extension trial lawyers going door to door in many of Texas communities hit by hail storms and encouraging homeowners to sue their insurance company by telling homeowners they won’t have any legal fees. But the truth is that these lawsuits are not only costing the homeowners but they are costing their neighbors through potentially increased insurance premiums in their area as a result of frivolous lawsuits.”
Woods is available for media interviews.
PCI’s Hail Damage Recovery Tips:
• Secure property from further damage or theft.
• Contact your insurance agent or company representative as soon as possible to report damage.
• Inventory losses and photograph damage to provide to your insurance adjustor. Save receipts.
• If you are a business owner, keep detailed records of business activity that is negatively affected due to the severe weather. It’s important to keep a list of extra expenses during the interruption. Prepare records to show the income from the business before and after the loss.
• Many standard homeowners’ and renters’ policies provide reimbursement for additional living expenses when the property is determined to be uninhabitable due to damage. This provision helps with paying for temporary housing and restaurant meals. In addition, extra expenses such as overnight parking and laundry services also may be covered. Additional living expense coverage does not pay for all living expenses, so contact your insurance company or agent for a list of what your policy will cover.
• Be careful about unscrupulous contractors following a natural disaster. Contact your insurer, agent or local business bureau for references on potential contractors and ask for certificates of liability and workers compensation before signing contracts.
PCI’s Hail Preparedness Toolkit offers vital information for those impacted by hail storms, as well as preparedness tips as we approach potentially more violent weather. Follow us on twitter @PCIAA and use #HaveAPlan as we continue to provide tips on what to do before and after violent weather.
Here’s a list of PCI Member Company Toll-Free Policyholder Claim Numbers: http://bit.ly/PCITollFreeNumbers