When you own a home in Texas, you should regularly inspect your property for damage, especially after a major storm strikes. It’s important to locate damage quickly so that you can file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance company, get the repairs that you need, and recover your losses. Here is an overview of steps that you should follow in order to make your claim.
Document the Damage to Your Home
In order to have the best chance at a successful claim, one of the most critical tasks that you have early in the process is to document the damage. When you inspect your home, take photos, make notes, and even record video of anything that you think happened as a result of the storm.
Don’t touch anything without documenting it first. Be sure to keep your own safety in mind during your initial inspection, and pay extra attention to these areas:
- The roof. Look for damage like missing or dented shingles or tiles, dented metal roofing, broken or cracked slate or tile, and dented or missing gutters, flashing, or vents.
- The interior. Make sure that there are no cracks, leaks, or damp spots on the ceiling or walls. Check for wet insulation. Document any personal property that may be water-damaged as a result of a leak, such as furniture, electronics, or appliances.
- Windows and glasswork. Watch for cracked or shattered glass, holes, and window frames that have been damaged or broken.
- Exterior and siding. Keep your eyes out for things like cracks and chips in stucco, missing or cracked patches of paint, discoloration, warping, and even missing boards or panels. Make sure that your air conditioning unit is intact and functional. Damage to your vehicle may be covered, too.
If you’re unsure about the safety of the building, or if the structure is obviously compromised, find accommodations elsewhere until an inspection can be completed and any necessary repairs are done. Keep receipts of any hotel stays and expenses incurred during this period, as your insurance company may reimburse you, depending on the details of your plan. Even food costs may be reimbursed, as you no longer have access to your own kitchen.
When to Call the Insurance Company
After you’ve documented the damage, contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Many policies limit the time that you have to file a claim at all, and as time passes, it will be harder to prove that the damage was caused by the storm. An agent from the company will be able to help you get started with your claim, make some initial assessments, and determine what may be covered by your policy. This is also a good time to carefully review your policy yourself.
You may need to make temporary repairs, such as boarding up broken windows. You may contact an emergency repair company, as well. The goal is to prevent further damage while you’re waiting for more permanent repairs. Keep records of any work done, as well as receipts, to submit to your insurance carrier later.
Next, you need to find a contractor who can do permanent repairs. A professional inspection is a must, and ask for written proposals from multiple companies. Your choice must be licensed and bonded, and should be reputable and professional. When the adjuster from your insurance company comes to inspect the work, make sure your contractor is present, too, to back up his or her estimate and make sure that the adjuster is fair and honest in the assessment.
When to Get Help From a Lawyer
It’s important to realize that, even though you are a paying customer, the insurance company does not make money by paying out on claims. Some insurers do everything that they can to minimize or even outright deny claims that should be fully covered by the terms of your contract. If you don’t think that you’ve received a fair offer for the cost of repairs or replacement to your home and belongings, you have options for how to proceed. If you believe that your insurance company isn’t acting in good faith, contacting an attorney who knows how to handle storm damage claims denials may be in your best interest. Your attorney can attempt to negotiate a fair settlement or file a lawsuit to seek the money that you’re owed—and in some cases, he may even obtain punitive damages.
Wayne Wright LLP is a Texas law firm with offices in San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, and El Paso. We have extensive experience seeking justice for victims of storm damage whose insurance companies have failed them. If you’re having trouble, we’d like to hear from you. Reach out to us today by phone, email, or live chat for a free, no-obligation consultation about your case.