May 14, 2009

Department of Insurance urges consumers with storm damage to act quickly, watch for scams

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Text of the PSA

Jefferson City, Mo.  - As consumers in northern and southern Missouri begin to recover from the tornadoes and powerful storms that tore through the region Wednesday night, the Missouri Department of Insurance has suggestions for dealing with storm damage.

The department says consumers with damage to homes, cars or other possessions need to quickly get in touch with their insurance agent or company, do what they can to contain the damage and be on the lookout for suspicious offers of help. The department offers these tips for filing your insurance claim: 

  • Make contact with your insurance company to report the damage. An adjuster will probably want to inspect the damage in person.
  • If a power outage has caused the loss of food or appliances, that may be covered by your homeowners policy.
  • Document all contact you have with the company or its representatives, such as date and time of the conversation and the name of the person you spoke to.
  • It may help to provide proof of your loss with receipts and pictures.
  • Get estimates from at least two contractors for repairing damage to your property.
  • Don't be rushed into agreeing with your insurance company's claim offer if you're not comfortable with it.
  • If the offer is much lower than your contractor's estimate, talk to your insurer to work out the difference. Most homeowners policies offer a system for resolving disputes if you're unsatisfied with your claim offer.

"While filing an insurance claim is usually a smooth process, there can be problems," said John M. Huff, director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP). "I encourage any consumers who believe they're not being treated fairly or who suspect fraud to contact my department."

Other tips to consider:

  • Most homeowners policies require you to protect against further damage. For example, if you have damage to your roof, walls or windows, your policy may not cover additional damage if there is more rain. Protecting against such damage could include putting a tarp or plywood over any exposed parts of your home.
  • Strangers who come to your door offering to help get more money for your insurance claim may be public adjusters, and they must be licensed by the department of insurance. Contact the department to verify the license of a public adjuster.
  • Beware of any offer from a public adjuster that sounds too good to be true.
  • If possible, don't vacate your property. Your home could be vulnerable to thieves, and your homeowners policy may be subject to cancelation if the home is vacant for 60 days.

Consumers with questions or complaints can contact the Department of Insurance Consumer Hotline at 1-800-726-7390 or visit insurance.mo.gov.

About the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions & Professional Registration

The Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (DIFP) is responsible for consumer protection through the regulation of financial industries and professionals. The department's seven divisions work to enforce state regulations both efficiently and effectively while encouraging a competitive environment for industries and professions to ensure consumers have access to quality products.

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