April 11, 2013

Department of Insurance offers guidance for Missouri consumers affected by storms

Tips for filing claims, preventing further damage

Jefferson City, Mo. - In light of Wednesday's severe weather that caused significant property damage to the St. Louis region and other parts of the state, the Missouri Department of Insurance is reminding Missourians if they have questions or concerns about their insurance coverage to contact the department's Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-726-7390 or visit insurance.mo.gov

Individuals and business owners who sustained property damage should immediately contact their insurance companies. On Wednesday night, Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and activated the Missouri State Emergency Operations Plan, which allows state agencies to coordinate directly with local jurisdictions to provide emergency services.

"Our department will assess and monitor the response of insurance companies to policyholders," said John M. Huff, director of the Department of Insurance. "Making sure the insurance needs of property and business owners are met is the top priority of our department."

The Department of Insurance offers this guidance for consumers affected by the storms:

  • Contact your insurance agent or your company's toll-free claims number as soon as possible.
  • If you have lost the contact information for your insurance company, the department may be able to help you locate it. Contact the Missouri Department of Insurance at insurance.mo.gov or by calling 800-726-7390.
  • Make temporary repairs to prevent further damage. For example, a hole in the roof should be covered by a tarp or other materials to keep rain out. The same goes for a broken car window. Otherwise, further damage will likely not be covered by your insurance policy. Keep the receipts for materials you buy so you can be reimbursed.
  • Don't make permanent repairs until your insurance company has inspected the damage. If you do, your insurance company may not reimburse you.
  • Once your claim is processed, get estimates from contractors or auto repair shops known to you or recommended by someone you trust. Be suspicious of strangers who offer to do repairs for you.
  • If you believe your insurance company has not handled your claim properly, file a complaint with us. The department will determine whether your insurance company has followed Missouri law in processing your claim.
  • Don't let contractors inspect your property if you're not watching. Some unscrupulous companies will cause damage to drive up the repair cost, and your insurance company will likely not cover the additional cost.
  • Don't pay the whole repair bill in advance. Pay in full only when the work is completed according to your agreement.
  • Be suspicious of anyone who offers to get you more money for your insurance claim. A public adjuster - required to be licensed by the department - may solicit you. Public adjusters will require part of your claim settlement as payment for their services. In general, consider hiring a public adjuster only if you reach an impasse with your insurance company. However, consumers may want to contact the department prior to hiring a public adjuster.
  • Business owners can refer to the department's Small Business Insurance page, which offers information on commercial property, business interruption insurance and more.