As Fires Rage and Hurricanes Threaten Both Coasts, America’s Top Insurance Lawyer Says, Be Prepared

Sep 01, 2009

Fire and hurricane season are occurring simultaneously this year as fires rage through California and hurricanes are churning on North American coasts.

In a fire, people have little time to evacuate and many items get left behind, some items are lost forever. With radar and technological advances, hurricanes paths can be predicted better than any fire, but can also result in devastating disaster for homeowners.

"Whatever the disaster, you need to have an emergency action plan, as your safety and that of your family are a priority," says Frank N. Darras, America's top insurance lawyer.

Action to take now, before any disaster strikes:

  • Make sure you have several copies of video footage and photos of your property.
  • Have an updated inventory list of personal property.
  • Make copies of your insurance policies.
  • Take one set of copies and videos/photos and store in a location you can access that is not in your home, or mail to a trusted friend or relative to secure and have available to you afterwards.
  • Know the name of your insurance company, their phone number and your policy number.

Always make sure you are organized and have accurate details in a location you can access. Take detailed notes and keep records of every conversation with your insurance company.

Once the claims process begins, you will be asked to produce a variety of records, everything from video tapes to living expenses if you cannot live in your home due to the damage.

  • Take account of your loss and separate the damaged from the undamaged personal property.
  • Provide the insurance adjuster with photos or videotape of the loss site prior to the event.
  • If necessary, have a qualified contractor make temporary repairs to prevent additional loss. Be sure to obtain a bill or invoice for this service.
  • If your home is unlivable, check your policy to determine if you have Additional Living Expenses coverage.
  • Document your living expenses by saving all your receipts while your home is unlivable.
  • Discontinue service with utility companies if your home is unlivable or destroyed.

No one can prepare for the emotional toll a disaster takes on a family. By preparing in advance and making smart choices before a disaster strikes, families can protect their financial health. Having a good policy with a company with stellar claims paying practices is tantamount.

"Never buy from a company you don't recognize! Paying really cheap premiums to a company that low balls the market is a destination to Disasterville," says Darras.