Insurance Evacuation & Claims Advice
If you are under a mandatory evacuation order here’s what you need to know to about putting safety first, maintaining COVID-19 health precautions, and what to expect from your insurance coverage and claims filing process.
- New COVID-19 challenges may impact evacuation shelters, lodging availability and claims handling. First and foremost, if you are ordered to evacuate, you need to leave your residence immediately. Listen to orders from local authorities.
- Contact your insurance agent or company immediately to let them know where you are staying and help you with coverage or claims questions. They can also help assist you with lodging options.
Here’s a link to Insurance Company Claims Contacts (Hyperlink). If you don’t see your company listed, contact your agent, refer to company website or the Colorado Division of Insurance (hyperlink/consumer affairs phone number) for assistance.
Evacuation Insurance Coverage:
- Homeowners or renters who are under a mandatory evacuation order likely have insurance coverage for "additional living expenses" which provides them with a certain amount of out-of-pocket money under their insurance policy while they are forced out of their homes. Policies can vary so check with your insurance professional about what coverage you have and keep receipts for expenses that may be reimbursed if you file a damage claim.
- Most insurance policies cover additional living expenses if you are under a mandatory evacuation and are unable to live in your house or apartment because of a fire or other covered peril. Most policies will reimburse you the difference between your additional living expenses and your normal living expenses, but policies have set limits on the amount they will pay and may be subject to a deductible.
What to know before you go:
- If you are on pre-evacuation alert it is critical to have an evacuation plan that includes identifying available lodging options, i.e. family/friends; local hotels; shelter locations; insurance assistance with lodging; pet shelters.
- Take photos or video of personal possession-particularly antiques, artwork or custom/expensive items. Do this only if you have plenty of time--put safety FIRST!
- Make a home inventory that includes list, pictures or a videotape of the contents of your home or apartment. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but most insurance companies now have apps to help simplify the process. You can add digital photos and scan in receipts, along with your room-by room online inventory.
Insurance Claims Filing Advice:
- Insurance companies have implemented safety procedures that address COVID-19 concerns to provide virtual property and inspection opportunities whenever possible in the claim settlement process. If an on-site inspection is required, adjusters are trained in proper safety precautions, including wearing masks, social distancing, and following CDC guidelines.
- Residents returning home to damage from smoke or other fire-related property losses should contact their insurance company immediately.
Insurance Resources & Claims Assistance:
How to file a property claim: Homeowners insurance covers damage from hail, fire and wind. Property damage resulting from rising water is covered by a separate flood insurance policy. http://www.rmiia.org/homeowners/Walking_Through_Your_Policy/Settlement_Process.asp
How to file an auto claim: Hail, wind, fire or flood damage to vehicles is covered if you carry comprehensive insurance on your auto policy. http://www.rmiia.org/auto/steering_through_your_auto_policy/Filing_an_Auto_Claim.asp
If you were told you need to evacuate on a moment's notice do you have a plan? What would you take with you? Do you have a home inventory stored off-site? These are questions you need to answer NOW—before a disaster comes calling. Know where you should go, who you should notify, and what to bring. A great resource for disaster planning is FEMA's "Are You Ready?" It walks you through steps you and your family can take so that you are better prepared should a disaster strike.
The I.I.I.'s "Know Your Plan" app for iPhone provides consumers with a library of preloaded checklists to learn about important property protection and preparedness steps. Customized lists can also be built from scratch. Each checklist gives users options to set task completion dates, chart their progress and make additional notes for individual tasks. Additional options include functions to share lists with family and friends. Also included are resources to help plan for an evacuation—including one for pets.
The American Red Cross has created a Disaster and Safety Library to assist you in preparing your home, school and workplace in the event of a disaster or emergency. Click here for links to Red Cross Mobile Apps.
For more information on Colorado Division of Insurance consumer protection catastrophe resources Are You Disaster Ready?
Wildfire Evacuation Tips
- If you have time before you evacuate your family and pets (your family has an evacuation plan in place, right?), back your car into the garage, leave the key in the ignition, and close the garage door. Close windows and doors to the house, and close all inside doors.
- Take down drapes and curtains.
- Place a ladder against the front of the house.
- If you have a combustible roof, wet it down or turn on roof sprinklers.
- Turn off the gas at the meter and the butane tank.
- Place fire fighting tools, such as 100 feet of pre-connected garden hose, a shovel, a rake, a bucket, and containers filled with water, in an accessible place.
In case of possible evacuation – only if you have enough warning – consider packing the following items:
- Social Security cards
- Driver's licenses
- Credit cards
- House deed
- Vehicle titles
- Marriage license
- Birth Certificates
- Insurance policies
- Home inventory list / photos
- Health insurance cards
- Prescription medications
- Important personal computer information downloaded to disk
- Valuable jewelry
- Home videos
- Items with sentimental value, such as wedding dress or baby keepsakes
- One week's worth of clothing
- Pets with ID tags, carriers, and pet food
Create a Home Inventory
Before a catastrophe strikes and you're faced with a loss, make a home inventory – lists, pictures or a videotape of the contents of your home. After all, would you be able to remember all the possessions you've accumulated over the years if they were destroyed by a fire? Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you get your insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance.
What Should I Do After a Disaster?
Residents evacuated from their homes should contact their insurance agents or companies immediately and let them know where they can be reached. As adjusters are allowed into the burned-out areas they will want to go in with their policyholders to assess the damage. Many companies will set up 24-hour emergency hotlines.
Company claims adjusters, many equipped with laptop computers and portable phones, will start writing checks over the next few days to pay the cost of temporary living expenses for people left homeless by the fires and to begin the rebuilding of damaged homes. Some companies will be opening special claims centers to assist their policyholders. Contact your agent or company if you need additional living expenses while you are out of your home.
Keep receipts. Out of pocket expenses during a mandatory evacuation are reimbursable under most standard homeowner policies.
Be prepared to give your agent or insurance representative a description of your damage. Your agent will report the loss immediately to your insurance company or a qualified adjuster who will contact you as soon as possible to inspect the damage. Again, be sure to give your agent a number where you can be reached.
Take photos of the damaged areas. These will help with your claims process and will assist the adjuster in the investigation.
Prepare a detailed inventory of all damaged or destroyed personal property. Be sure to make two copies-one for yourself and one for the adjuster. Your list should be as complete as possible, including a description of the items, dates of purchase or approximate age, cost at time of purchase and estimated replacement cost.
Make whatever temporary repairs you can . Cover broken windows, damaged roofs and walls to prevent further destruction. Save receipts for supplies and materials you purchase. Your company will reimburse you for reasonable expenses in making temporary repairs.
Secure a detailed estimate for permanent repairs to your home from a reliable contractor and give it to the adjuster. The estimate should contain the proposed repairs, repair costs and replacement prices.
Serious losses will be given priority . If your home has been destroyed or seriously damaged, your agent will do everything possible to assure that you are given priority.
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