After heavy rains resulted in record flooding in Arkansas over the past month, thousands of Arkansans were displaced from their homes and many more experienced property damage. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, flooding is the most common and costly natural disaster.
If you are a victim of recent flooding in Arkansas, be sure to follow these easy steps for making the most of your insurance claim:
Contact Your Insurance Company Immediately
When you contact your insurance company, have your policy number available if possible. Be sure to provide your name and where you can be reached and your temporary address if you’re not residing in your home at that time. During your first call, you will need to find out the following information:
- Whether the damage and cause is covered by your policy
- How long you have to file the claim
- Whether your claim exceeds your policy’s deductible, which is the amount you pay out of pocket before your insurance kicks in
- How long it will take for the claim to be processed
- Whether or not you’ll need to obtain estimates from local contractors, roofing companies, appraisers, and so on
Your insurance company will make an appointment for an adjuster to visit the property and inspect the damage. Make sure the adjuster is properly licensed. Be sure that you or a trusted member of your family is present during the adjuster’s visit.
After you speak to your insurance representative, they’ll give you a claim reference number – make sure you hold onto that number and have it available anytime you communicate with your insurance company. Having your reference number on hand makes finding your claim and answering any questions related to it easier. They should be able to pull up all the information related to your situation instantaneously.
While filling out your claim forms, Keep copies of whatever lists, records, or documents you send to your insurance company. You should also hold on to and make copies of whatever paperwork your insurance company gives you. Additionally, record the names and get the phone numbers and emails of everyone you speak with about your claim.
Begin taking inventory by making a detailed list of lost or damaged property. Be sure to video or photograph damaged property before beginning any repairs.
Do not throw away damaged property without your adjuster’s approval.
Try to document the value of each object lost. Collect bills of sale, canceled checks, charge account records, and insurance evaluations for good evidence. If you have no such records, estimate the value, and list where the item was purchased and the date of purchase.
After the insurance adjuster gives the go ahead to clean and make repairs, include in your notes a list of cleaning and repair bills, including materials, cost of rental equipment, and depreciation of purchased equipment.
Secure and Maintain Your Property
After flooding occurs, protect your family’s health and maintain their safety during the recovery process. It’s important to clean your house as quickly as possible as floodwaters carry sewage and chemicals from roads, farms, and wastelands. It’s important to not allow your children to roam freely within or make contact with the damaged areas of the home to avoid exposing them to infectious diseases or getting bitten by displaced wildlife hidden away in nooks and crannies.
Dispose of foods and medicines that may have come into contact with floodwater. Dry out water-damaged furnishings and clothing as soon as possible to prevent molding, fading, and deterioration. You may wish to take some items to a reliable dry cleaner or have them removed by a company that specializes in natural disaster contamination.
You’ll want to take steps to secure the structure of your home so that potential hazards are minimized and further damage does not occur. Also board up any open doors or broken windows to deter trespassers and to protect remaining items within the home against theft. If you made temporary repairs, keep your receipts and don’t overpay for temporary work. Although you can be reimbursed by your insurance company for temporary repairs, the cost of the temporary work will go towards your policy limit.
Work as a Team with Your Adjuster
It is your adjuster’s job to assist you in the claim process. The adjuster will inspect your list of lost or damaged property and work with you to calculate the value of the items on your list. You and the adjuster should come to an agreement as to the scope of damage, which is an agreement without a dollar amount, of what needs to be repaired or replaced.
Make sure you clear on what needs to be done to follow up. If you’re unclear about your next steps, ask the adjuster for instructions in writing.
Finalize the Claim
Don’t rush to settle your insurance claim. It may take time to discover all of the damages and some may be overlooked or not yet be apparent in early estimates. You may also settle personal property (such as clothing, jewelry, etc.) and structural (such as roofing, foundation, etc.) claims at different times. Filing these separately may allow you to better understand and document your losses to the fullest extent.
If you and your adjuster cannot reach a settlement, you may obtain mediation through your state’s Department of Insurance. Mediation is an informal process where a neutral third party tries to help the parties resolve the dispute. However, if you are not satisfied with your settlement or progress of mediation, contact an attorney to further assist you in finalizing your claim.
Rebuild Your Life
After your claim is final, your insurance company may pay you a sum equal to the actual cash value of your loss unless you request minimal repairs. Some policies require the insurance company to withhold the balance of the full replacement cost until after you complete the repairs.
Be sure that any contractor you or your insurance company hires to restore your home has a proper license to complete the work. It is not uncommon for undependable workers to enter a damaged area, make cheap repairs, and leave before the residents discover that the repairs are inadequate. Get a written estimate that includes any and all work promises by the contractor. Remember to ask if there’s a charge for an estimate before allowing any contractor into your home.
Your road to recovery may be long, but will pay off if you are patient and thorough throughout the process. If you’re in the process of filing a claim for flood damage in Arkansas or are going through the mediation process and are unsatisfied with the services you’re getting, McMath Woods P.A. may be able to help. Contact our law firm in Little Rock today to find out how we can help you and your family move forward.