COLUMBUS – High winds and heavy rains pummeled many Ohio cities early Monday morning. The result was some damage to homes and cars and flooding in areas where the ground was already saturated from last week’s rain storms. Lieutenant Governor and Ohio Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor Ohioans urged Ohioans to use caution when surveying the damage and offered advice for those who need to file claims.
“Ohioans are all too familiar with this kind of severe weather,” Taylor said. “It’s important that they gather the proper information to file an insurance claim.”
Ohioans with questions about insurance can call the Department’s consumer hotline at 1-800-686-1526 and also visit www.insurance.ohio.gov to review the Department’s Severe Weather On-line Toolkit. The toolkit provides guidance on what steps to take when filing an insurance claim in the event that property is damaged in a storm.
If You Have Suffered Damage to Your Property Due to a Storm:
- Call your insurance company as soon as you can. Be sure your agent knows how to contact you.
- Take reasonable steps to prevent additional damage if permitted by public safety authorities and if you will not endanger yourself. Call your local utility to let them know of any downed power lines. DO NOT attempt to move any power lines that may have fallen on your property.
- Closely inspect property and cars for damage. Note and photograph any damage.
- If required to seek temporary housing, check your policy for “loss of use” coverage.
- Be sure everything is considered in your claim. Back up claims with written estimates.
Director Taylor also warned Ohioans to be aware of unscrupulous contractors that tend to drift state-to-state and prey on desperate people anxious to get their property repaired and lives back in order.
Consumers are encouraged to:
- Contact their insurance company to verify benefits immediately after a disaster.
- Obtain a list of reputable contractors from their insurance carrier, the Better Business Bureau or a specialized consumer organization.
- Contact multiple contractors and obtain more than one estimate.
- Request references from contractors and contact the references to verify work was completed timely and to satisfaction.
- Obtain, in writing, the terms and conditions of the project.
- Avoid signing a contract until the document is reviewed fully and/or discuss the terms of the contract with a legal representative or a trusted adviser.
- Avoid signing a contract that has not been completed fully.
- Pay contractor by check or credit card, rather than in cash.
- Refrain from paying a contractor in full, or signing a completion certificate, until all work has been finished.
- Do not provide the contractor with your personal information, such as your social security number.
- Consider hiring a public adjuster for assistance in the negotiation and/or settlement of a claim.
Advance Insurance Planning Tips:
- Inspect the outside of your property: ensure your siding, shingles, awning, and porch furniture are secure or stored away. Also address loose tree limbs and dead trees.
- Examine your homeowners/rental coverage as well as auto policies to determine if you need to revise your policy to reflect any improvements or changes that will affect your coverage needs.
- Be sure you have adequate coverage and deductibles that are reasonable for your needs.
- Wind, rain, hail, lightning and tornado damage are generally covered in a standard homeowners and comprehensive portion of an auto policy.
- Since flood insurance is not included in routine homeowner and renter’s insurance policies, now is the time to check on the necessity and availability of flood insurance in your area. Call the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) at 1-800-638-6620 to learn more.
- Ask your insurance agent about whether a policy rider for flooding from sewer backups or sump pump issues is appropriate to add to your policy.
- Compile a detailed written inventory of your home and belongings and supplement that inventory with a videotape or photographs. Keep the inventory off-premises in a safety deposit box, or other secure location.