June 30, 2016

Missouri Department of Insurance reminds Missourians to prepare for severe weather

Jefferson City, Mo - Missourians know that tornadoes, floods, damaging wind and hail are common to the Show-Me State. What many Missourians may not know is that consumers can and should do more to prepare for any potential financial losses that often result from severe weather.

The Missouri Department of Insurance encourages consumers to be prepared during storm season and to understand their insurance products and how they work. This understanding will help consumers know how to respond if weather damages their home or property.

"Understanding your insurance policy before you need to use it is essential," said Department of Insurance Director John M. Huff. "To avoid being underinsured or purchasing the wrong coverage, Missourians should read their policy and ask if they have questions. As always, the Missouri Department of Insurance is available to help consumers with this process." 

The department offers these tips for consumers to be prepared.

1. Download the Mo2Go Wallet App onto your smartphone.

The department developed this tool so that Missourians can store all of their insurance information on their smartphone. This way when it comes time to file a claim, you will have the necessary information on hand to make the process smoother. 

2. Review your coverage with your company

Many insurance companies reach out to clients for a yearly review. Take them up on it. If your company does not do this, be proactive and arrange an appointment. Your agent can provide important information regarding your policy and the financial protection needed for your property.

Read your insurance policy and take notes. Bring notes and any questions about confusing policy language with you to a meeting with your insurance agent. They can discuss elements of your policy that are often misunderstood. Other helpful questions to ask, include

  • What is my deductible?
  • Is the deductible the same for all perils?
  • Is my roof deductible separate from other coverage deductibles?
  • Is a reported loss for which no payment is made recorded on my loss history?

A review is also an excellent chance to make sure your property is neither underinsured nor improperly insured. Have a trusted builder provide a full replacement cost estimate of your home and compare it to the company's estimate.

Finally, ask your agent about earthquake coverage, particularly if you live in southeast Missouri. 

3. Have a rainy day fund for rainy days

Insurance is for sudden, catastrophic loss and no policy covers every potential loss. You retain responsibility for risk even when you are properly insured. Therefore, it is important to remember that in addition to your insurance policy, you may also want to set money aside as a cushion in case you experience a loss not covered by your policy. 

4. Know what you have

Take time to catalogue your possessions. After a loss, the insurance company will require an itemized list of all loss items. In the days and months following a catastrophe, it can be difficult to compile this list. The Missouri Department of Insurance recommends the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' app MyHome Scr.APP.book. The app allows you to make an itemized and indexed list of your belongings. To get started, try to inventory one room a week. Once you have them all recorded, don't forget to periodically update your list. The department also offers a free home inventory booklet consumers can print online or get sent to their homes.

5. Anywhere it rains, it can flood

Flood damage is not covered by basic homeowners and other residential policies. If you live in an area prone to flooding you will need to buy a flood insurance policy through either your agent or the National Flood Insurance Program to cover flood related damages.

6. Consider earthquake coverage

Missourians are susceptible to earthquakes due to the state's proximity to the New Madrid Seismic Zone yet more than a half million Missourians are at risk because of the contracting earthquake insurance market.

Earthquake coverage is not included on most homeowners' insurance policies. It must be purchased as separate coverage, called an "endorsement." This type of insurance requires that the earthquake is the direct cause of damage to the property.

The department recently released a supplement to the 2015 Earthquake Report that indicates the percentage of residents with earthquake coverage in the New Madrid area dropped two percentage points between 2014 and 2015. More than 60 percent of homes in the New Madrid area had earthquake insurance coverage in 2000.  But by 2015, that number plummeted to less than 18 percent.

To help Missourians find coverage, the department provides an online list of insurance companies that offer earthquake insurance. The department also debunks common earthquake insurance myths in a video aimed to educate Missourians about coverage.

7. Risk management

Many people assume that having insurance means they can relax their risk diligence. Not true. Here are two further tips for before and after a storm:

  • Take stock of your property to look for ways to protect your home, such as clearing your yard of debris, closing patio umbrellas and ensuring all outdoor furniture and shutters are properly secured.
  • Beware of fraudsters offering their services after a storm. Ask for references, licenses, permits, and bonding. All certificates of insurance should be provided to you by an agent, not a service provider.

If consumers have insurance related questions or would like to know more about what to ask an agent, they can call the department's Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-726-7390 or visit insurance.mo.gov