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  1. Opinion

Column: Before hurricane season, take an inventory and doublecheck your insurance coverage

Published May 25, 2018

An uptick in the frequency of severe weather is a sure sign that summer is near. And that means hurricane season is quickly approaching.

Last year, three major hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and Maria — caused an estimated $67 billion in damage in a 28-day window. Forecasters are again calling for an above-average hurricane season in 2018.

Hurricane season begins Friday and extends through Nov. 30. But named storms can form even in May. Four of the last six years we saw hurricanes form before the official season even began, according to the Weather Channel.

Unfortunately, too many residents still do not give the beginning of hurricane season enough thought — or take action to prepare their homes or their finances.

Floridians can take a few important steps now to give yourself peace of mind and the confidence that you're prepared financially for a major storm or emergency.

Start by checking in with your insurance agent or company regarding the amount of coverage you have. For example, determine if your policy provides for replacement costs or actual cash value of your belongings. If your home is insured at its assessed value, ask if that will be enough to rebuild in the case of a major catastrophe.

Don't forget to consider additional coverage options such as flood insurance, as most home-owners' policies do not cover flooding. Flood insurance must be purchased as a separate policy, and it takes 30 days for a flood insurance policy to go into effect. Remember that floods can devastate communities anywhere. Floods are not isolated to coastal areas or flood zones.

After a disaster strikes, it can be tough to remember everything that was in your home. Homeowners and renters should make a home inventory every year. Use your smartphone to video the inside of your home and its contents. Include images of receipts for large items. Back up the video on a cloud device, in case your computer or phone are damaged. Ask your insurer if they have an app where you can upload the inventory, too.

If you sustain storm damage, call your insurer as soon as possible to start the claims process. Your home inventory will expedite the claims process. Beware of signing any documents from contractors before you talk to your insurer.

Assignment of benefit (AOB) abuse is rampant in Florida. Third-party groups have perfected a too-good-to-be true scheme that convinces home-
owners and motorists to sign over their insurance benefits in exchange for quick repairs. The most common examples are roofing contractors walking door to door and car window repair shops approaching motorists in parking lots. These third parties offer seemingly great deals, but the unknowing home or car owner is being tricked into a lawsuit that could end up increasing their insurance costs over the long term.

Don't wait until a major hurricane is threatening before you take action. Take these easy steps that can go a long way in storm recovery.

Logan McFaddin is regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

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