Hurricanes, home insurance and how to make sure you’re prepared

The process of filing a disaster claim can be stressful. Here are some tips for how to get ready.
A home lay tossed onto its side in Mexico Beach two months after Hurricane Michael. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times (2018)
A home lay tossed onto its side in Mexico Beach two months after Hurricane Michael. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2018)
Published June 26

Confused by home insurance?

We talked to several experts in the field, and came away with these tips for making sure you’re prepared before the next storm.

READ MORE: Complete hurricane coverage from the Tampa Bay Times

BACKGROUND: Hurricane Michael destroyed their homes. Then the insurance heartache began.

Background check your providers. Research the Better Business Bureau ratings and comb through some of the data on the state Office of Insurance Regulation website (http://www.floir.com/). Look into the company’s financial standing — will it have the funds to pay you if a disaster strikes? “A lot of people treat insurance as if it is a commodity, like every insurance policy is exactly the same,” said Charles Nyce, a Florida State University risk management and insurance professor. “And they’re not. Some insurance companies are better than others.”

Read your policy. Advice so trite it seems annoying. But go through your policy line-by-line, the best you can. Your home is likely your most expensive asset, and you should make sure it’s protected. Think about your cell phone bill, and how you comb over the coverage you get for the various fees. Try to understand insurance at least as well.

Lean on, and challenge, your agent. When you don’t understand something on your own, ask. Your insurance agent is an expert you hire to help you get coverage. Press them for details, until you feel like you really get it.

Know your deductibles. Before a storm hits, check and make sure you are aware of how much money you could owe if you have a claim. Nyce said the deductible should be right on the first pages of your policy, with the declarations. At the very least, read these.

Take a video of your house. If you evacuate before a storm, press record on your cell phone and perform a slow walk-through, showing everything you own and its condition. After the storm, when your insurer asks you to provide proof of all the contents you lost, this video will be crucial to your claim.

If it’s too late... and you’re struggling with an insurance claim, you can ask questions or file complaints to the state. Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ office has held insurance workshops in the Panhandle since Hurricane Michael.

In-state: 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236)

Out-of-state callers: (850) 413-3089

TDD line: 1-800-640-0886

Email: Consumer.Services@myfloridacfo.com

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