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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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Should you Fight or Dance with the Insurance Company Adjuster?

Your home or business has suffered a disaster such as fire or water. Is it time to fight, or is it time to dance with the insurance company adjuster? Feel the mood, listen to what they have to say, determine if it sounds true and then get ready to dance. Or in some cases get ready to fight, hire the experts, lock and load and fight for what you deserve. Your insurance settlement! It is unfortunate but in most circumstance one must be ready to fight and demand to get what you deserve, a fair settlement.

Property Insurance Policy

First – Fight or not to Fight? Do you really get more Bee’s with honey? The decision to make a stance early on is not an easy one. It really depends on who the adjuster from the insurance company is, his qualifications, his mood, years at the company ect. In other words, it is not really the company, but the adjuster that is assigned to your claim that will dictate how you decide to respond. One can usually see within a week or two the intentions of the company adjuster. So let’s assume it will be simply a dance which needs to occur. Then again maybe and most often not.

Second – Who will be leading the dance? The insurance adjuster deals with insurance claims on a daily basis and naturally wants to lead. He will want to establish his superiority over you and tell you how it will work and how you get paid. After all, what do you, the insured, know about insurance adjusting. He’ll steer you this way, and then that way, gracefully and smoothly, slowly spinning you around the dance floor. He will try to get you from one side of the dance floor to the other. But at what cost? Sure, it’s easier to follow, but doing so requires giving up control. It’s your home, so, clumsy as you may be about filing paperwork, insist on being heard. Make sure everyone understands it is you who has suffered the loss. You have the right to decide on matters, not the insurance company adjuster. You decide who does the restoration and who does the repairs.

Should you believe what they say?Third – Does it really take Two to Tango. While your insurance adjuster wants to remain in control and keep the money in the insurance company bank account, it takes two to tango. You have the right to disagree. You can negotiate. You can point out errors and omissions. If you want a fair insurance settlement, you need to get involved and you must be willing to be assertive. Otherwise, your insurance adjuster will sweep you off your feet and glide you across the dance floor, all according to his terms. Maybe you need a new partner. Someone who cares about you and not about the insurance company. Someone to support your position, — A public Adjuster perhaps?

Fourth – Do the Hustle. Be prepared to do most of the work. Fire and Water damage claims often involve extensive damage and major losses. But guess who’s responsible for documenting those losses? You are. Sure, your insurance adjuster will come in, snap a few photos, take a few notes and maybe bring with him his own partner, the “insurance company contractor.” Company contractors love to do the hustle. That is all they know. They own that dance floor in their eyes. Why shouldn’t they think so? They were brought to the dance by the company adjuster who is rolling out the red carpet for them? Why? Because they save the insurance company. In exchange they keep getting invited to the dance. But remember, be assertive, be positive, take charge. With the help of a public adjuster or if need be an attorney, you can be in control, you can provide the company adjuster with proof of your losses, supported by dozens of photos and create a detailed list documenting every single item that was damaged or lost. Public adjusters assess the damages, create estimates and “work only for you, the owner of the business or property.” Public Adjusters do not dance with the insurance company adjusters. They fight them. They fight them all day and night. They enjoy the fight because they love to the dance with the home owners. Public adjusters earn their living by serving the property owners not the insurance companies.

Harris Claims Services is your lifelineFifth – Mind if I cut in? Let the public adjuster cut in and take control, relieve you of the stress and take charge. Remember public adjusters report back to the property owners, not the insurance company. So it is the owner of the property that is then really controlling the dance. Statistics demonstrate it is financially wise to allow a public adjuster to handle the matters of insurance adjusting. Public insurance adjusters, such as the ones at Harris Insurance Claims Services are insurance expert who represents your interests and negotiate directly with your insurance company for your benefit.

If your property is damaged by fire or water strong consideration should be given to hire a or at a minimum discuss the matter with a qualified public adjuster. Harris Insurance Claims Services provides free consultations and have been dancing and fighting for the rights of property owners for decades. Knowledge is power. Take the time and understand the dance.

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