Getting Your Home and Auto Insurance Ready before Disaster Strikes

Auto Insurance
The people in Oklahoma had just 16 minutes to brace themselves to face one of the world’s worst tornadoes that ripped the country. If you had just 16 minutes, what would you do?

The people in Oklahoma had just 16 minutes to brace themselves to face one of the world’s worst tornadoes that ripped the country. If you had just 16 minutes, what would you do? Meteorologists say that moving you and your family to a safe location is priority. Advance warning is extremely important and people who follow safety processes can save lives. That may explain why, in spite of the massive destruction the Oklahoma tornado caused, the number of deaths and casualties was relatively less than what you would expect in a tragedy of this scale.

What would you want to take with you in those 16 minutes to safety? Valuables?  Sentimental keepsakes?  For all practical purposes, your insurance papers? Sixteen minutes. Sounds like enough time and yet we know that preparation for those 16 minutes has to begin a lot sooner than when the sirens sound.

Think about it. The El Reno tornado in Oklahoma was the widest ever recorded in history. Catastrophically destroying anything and everything in its pathway, the 2.6 miles tornado also received a rare EF5 in the Fujita Scale of Tornado Intensity. According to the National Weather Service, wind speeds were close to 300 miles per hour, one of the highest ever recorded for a tornado.

The devastation left many homeless, not to mention the tragic loss of lives. According to the Oklahoma Insurance Department, a total of 1,248 structures were destroyed. The number of insurance claims rose to 22,400 estimated at over $85 million.

According to John Doak, Insurance Commissioner of Oklahoma, the large number of insurance claims after the Oklahoma tragedy shows just how devastating tornadoes can be emphasizing once again, the importance of having insurance that adequately covers your cars and home.

Doak has also encouraged those stricken by the tornado to retain their receipts for meals, accommodation, clothing as well as medical and other expenses in order to claim these amounts from their insurance companies. He also warns victims to be aware of frauds who may offer to repair their homes or remove trees for a large amount of cash. In his words, “No large transactions of cash should be taking place right now,” he said. “That is a first indicator of fraud.”

Dealing with the aftermath will be a long and arduous journey for those who are affected and part of the recovery process will be filing claims on their insurance. Many may be surprised to learn that their insurance policy does not cover al l the damages to their property and cars giving rise to numerous questions about what is and is not covered in a standard home owner’s and auto insurance policies.

To make sure your insurance policies will cover your loss after such tragedies, take a few moments to read through the tips below:

Prepare yourself in advance. Home and car owners should prepare themselves in advance for such natural calamities especially if they are prone to strike in your area. Rick Smith, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service says, “Anything can happen in any given year.” He went on to say that “certainly these first 10 to 15 days in May are really prime time for tornadoes in the state.”

To make sure your claims process flows smoothly, prepare a home inventory of all your possessions in advance. There are several software available to make this job a lot easier and you’ll have a copy available to you at all times. Work through this list with your agent to find exactly which items are insured.

Know your homeowner’s policy. Homeowners’ insurance generally covers your property but the definition of “property” may vary from state to state, company to company and from policy to policy. The term “property” may cover these four areas:

·         your home or dwelling place,

·         any other structure such as a dog house, a tool shed or a detached garage,

·         the content in your dwelling or your personal property which would include your furniture, and other possessions;

·         The cost of additional living expenses if your home becomes uninhabitable.

Check what is and what is not covered by your policy. Make sure your policy covers the perils that are most likely to hit your area. A standard homeowner’s insurance policy should protect against “acts of God” such as wild fires and hailstorms. Tornadoes and hurricanes are usually covered under “windstorms”. Damage from an earthquake is generally not covered in a standard insurance policy. And, if you thought that losses resulting from leakage and flooding after a tornado or any other natural calamity are covered under your home insurance, you’re mistaken. Remember to purchase a separate flood policy to make sure you’re covered against loss due to flooding.

Make sure you don’t undervalue your home. Most homeowners in Oklahoma will have insurance that covers their losses but according to a Los Angeles company that tracks rebuilding costs for insurers, Marshall & Swift/Boeckh, this may not be enough. In the past five years, home values have slumped 33 percent so homeowners may not have thought of upgrading their insurance. Building costs have risen in most areas. About 64 percent of homes are undervalued leaving homeowners with money enough to re-build 80 percent of their house. Only 43 percent of renters have home insurance according to the Insurance Research Council leaving those living in rented facilities in a super-duper fix to cover losses.

What about your car insurance? Depending on the type of coverage you have selected, auto insurance will generally cover damage to your car by a tornado.  Comprehensive coverage will cover damage to your car by high winds or a tornado. Damage could be from flying debris that hits your car or the unhinging of an open door.

Although insurance companies may promise to waive the deductible on “acts of God” you should make sure you read the fine print. In most cases, you need to pay your deductible in order to file a claim. Most people try to save money on premiums by raising their deductible. Think it through. A policy is of no benefit if you cannot pay the deductible.

What to do after disaster has struck. It is difficult to focus immediately after a disaster strikes but the sooner you are able to prepare your documentation the easier it will be to process your claim. Make a list of what has been damaged, take pictures and videos that show the extent of destruction to your home or property. When disaster has struck, most life insurance companies will set up a mobile claims unit near the vicinity. Look for one in your area or call your agent to find out where they are. The sooner you assess the damage the more quickly you can go through the claims process.

Loss to property or vehicle is retrievable but the loss of life is a tragedy beyond repair. The best way to protect against the loss of loved ones is by building a safe room or wind shelter underground. The Hartford gives you a list of tornado safety tips to help minimize damage to lives and property. Hindsight is a good teacher and if there is a lesson we can take from the most powerful tornado in history is that safe rooms could have prevented the loss of life of many of the men, women and children who make up the death toll of this tragedy. Our heart and prayers are with their families.

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