HELP INFORMATION FOR HURRICANE SANDY VICTIMS – PROVIDED BY HARRIS CLAIMS SERVICES – PROVIDING INFORMATION FOR THE PROPERTY OWNER

Harris Claims Services – To our neighbors on the East Coast who suffered damages from Hurricane Sandy we hope things are getting better and would like to provide some information to you. By now FEMA, Allstate, State Farm, American Family and other insurances companies have adjusters on the ground assisting the situation and adjusting the disaster and losses.

Homeowners are still assessing the damage from Hurricane Sandy and reaching out to their insurance companies. It can be a complex process. Good and Professional Public Adjusters like those at Harris Claims Services can offer advice.  There is no fear of papers to sign.  Consultation is no obligation.  Get the information and then decide on how to proceed.  Below is some advice on how to get started and navigate the system.

1. FILE THE CLAIM – REVIEW YOUR POLICY Property Insurance Policy

By now, homeowners should have called their insurance companies. If not, do so immediately. Many insurance companies have brought in additional adjusters and employees to the area to assist.  Make sure to read through the policy to see what is covered, the amount of your deductible and any riders you may have. Your Agent should have this information.  Make sure to have an expert also look at it for any additional coverage’s or possibly exclusions that might affect your loss.  For instance, your household insurance may not cover damage from flooding, but it may if the flooding is from a sewer or storm drain backup. Don’t assume your broker knows your policy. “You can be given misinformation by the broker,” We have seen this many times over the past few decades.

2. ASK THE QUESTIONS – GET ANSWERS.

Tell the insurance company what was damaged, and ask representatives specifically what is covered. Ask about who pays what bill.  Where will the check go? Who will be on the Check?  Most likely your mortgage company will be on the building portion of the check.  Follow governmental websites that can be of assistance and track and research any company you intend on hiring to represent you or perform repair work.

3. BE CAREFUL WITH REPAIR COMPANIES AND OTHERS CLAIMING TO BE EXPERTS  Should you believe what they say?

Unfortunately, there are people who take advantage of disasters and charge more than is necessary or are not qualified to do the work. It causes more stress and unfortunately can damage an industry where there are in fact good companies looking out to help and get you back on your feet.  Un-qualified companies may come from out of town.  Many are not qualified or licensed.  Make sure the workers are licensed and insured. Get references and the entire job’s costs in writing. A reputable contractor will know how to work closely with a private – public adjuster or with the insurance company adjuster.  If they are qualified they will make sure that your damages are covered and enter into a payment plan which suits your needs.   Make sure the company has a permanent address.  Check the Court history for lawsuits and call the attorney general who may have a complaint history also.  Get a contract and review it carefully for hidden charges.

4. HIRE AN ATTORNEY OR PUBLIC ADJUSTER – PRIVATE ADJUSTER?

Most claims are handled without problems by the claims adjuster assigned by the insurance company, experts say. If a claim is taking longer than expected, homeowners can hire a public adjuster or attorney to help expedite the claim. Harris Claims Services is operated by individuals who have a public adjuster license and law license.  The Insurance Information Institute recommends checking references with family and friends, and calling the state insurance agency  before hiring a public adjuster, who must be licensed. A public adjuster can be an important advocate if your insurance company is balking.  A good and reputable Public Adjuster will not charge a fee for a simple consultation which should give you the information to make an informed decision on how to proceed.

5. HOUSEHOLD INSURANCE IS NOT FLOOD INSURANCE

For those with non-flood related damage, sufficient household insurance will most likely cover the damage. If damage is from wind, such as a hole in the roof, it is covered by household insurance.  You can speak with the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group based in Manhattan. However, if damage is due to storm-related surging floodwater, it may not be covered by home insurance.  We recommend a careful review of your policy before accepting such a denial.  There is also special flood insurance from FEMA, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Make sure claims are filed with both FEMA and your insurance company.

FEMA expects homeowners will be having many issues and discussions with the insurance adjusters as to what is covered by which act, the sky, the rising water, the storm surge or other.

6. INVENTORY OF THE DAMAGE – THE BUILDING AND THE PERSONAL PROPERTY

An inventory of all aspects of the claims must be completed.  If it is not done correctly you may lose out.  Take pictures or videos or both of the damage to the house and property. Keep notes or a journal of discussions with the insurance company and the adjusters.  Keep receipts to demonstrate the cost of additional living expense you have incurred.  Be patient.  Check for damage in places that may not be apparent.  Hire or request structural engineer to look at the situation.  There can be hidden damages.  Public Adjusters such as Harris Claims Services routinely uses structural engineers to assess the hidden damage.  Look for cracks in swimming pool or lose of mortar between the bricks or doors that no longer close correctly.  These are signs of issues with the structure. Again a qualified and professional public adjuster or as some call them private adjuster such as Harris Claims Services can help.

7. EMERGENCY REPAIRS AR OK- BUT KEEP A RECORD.

It’s fine to make emergency – temporary repairs.  However, before beginning the major work you must get the loss adjusted and completed with the insurance company adjuster.  Your policy of insurance is a contract between you and the insurance company and you do not want to allow the insurance company to claim that you breach that contract.  There are many terms in the policy that outline the obligations of you the insured and the Insurance Company.   Insurance companies will hold you to the language of the policy of insurance.   .

8. CHECK TO SEE WHAT ELSE MAY BE COVERED – GET YOUR CLAIM REVIEWED

Again have your policy review and get a few opinions on the extent of the damage. There is usually hidden damage and there are almost always clauses in the policy of insurance that allow for additional damages and monies to be paid.  Even if you have exceed the limits on the declaration page.  Keep receipts for everything.

9. FEMA – SEE IF YOU CAN FILE A CLAIM WITH FEMA

It is believed Long Island will or has been declared a disaster area by the federal government. It’s a good idea for everyone who took damage to get the story told into the FEMA system.  Those impacted by the storm should contact the agency and file a claim, even if the homeowner has insurance. There is also the possibility that Grants and low-cost loans may be available for things not covered under insurance.

10.  OTHER POSSIBILITIES FOR HELP AFTER HURRICANE SANDY

State Department of Financial Services can handle questions regarding insurance issues. Both counties have consumer affairs departments where homeowners can check to see if a company is licensed and bring complaints. Also the state attorney general’s office is handling complaints about price gouging, which is illegal. Phone numbers and websites to look at for assistance are listed below.

* Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): 800-621-FEMA (3362), disasterassistance.gov

* New York State Attorney General Consumer Helpline: 800-771-7755, ag.ny.gov

* New York State Department of Financial Services Disaster Hotline: 800-339-1759, dfs.ny.gov/consumer/fileacomplaint.htm

* Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs: 516-571-2600, nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/OCA/index.html

* Suffolk County Office of Consumer Affairs: 631-853-4600, suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/consumeraffairs

* Harris Claims Services: 847-329-8444

www.HarrisClaimServices.com

HURRICANE SANDY HELP BY Harris Claims Services – Jason Harris Licensed Attorney and Public Adjuster.

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