Homeowner Insurance Claims

First comes the evacuation, a mad scramble for insurance documents, financial statements, family heirlooms and anything else you can grab. As you drive away, smoke shrouds the windows, flames lick the rooftop. Your home is reduced to ashes.

After the fire trucks and reporters have gone, you're left with a charred concrete and lingering emotional trauma. You must deal with door-to-door solicitors and fend off shady contractors and other scam artists who prey on disaster victims. And if part of the house is left standing, you'll need to secure the property to fend off looters.

Now the Big Question: What do I do now?

What's the first step?

After securing your family's safety, contact your agent or your insurance company as soon as possible.

What documents should I be prepared to provide?

It's helpful to have copies of your insurance policy and "declarations" page, which details your specific coverage limits.  A comprehensive inventory of your home's contents, including photographs or video records will smooth the process.

What if my insurance documents were destroyed in the fire?

Your insurance company should have all of your policy information on file, so you will still be covered. But it makes sense to always keep your home's inventory in a readily accessible safe, secure location such as a fire proof safe or a safety deposit box at your financial institution, because that will be difficult, if not impossible to reconstruct in the aftermath of disaster.

If I'm burned out of my home, what documentation do I need to be reimbursed for expenses?

Fire victims should keep receipts for all hotel rooms, food and staples bought to maintain their regular standard of living. Coverage for additional living expenses is standard with homeowner's policies at most insurers. You may want to make sure you have it when you do your annual coverage checkup.

What if I'm a renter?

Renters insurance typically covers the customer's personal belongings and emergency living expenses, so the same advice applies: Keep an up-to-date home inventory, and save receipts if you are forced to leave. Landlords, conversely, will generally be covered for lost rent.

What do I need to process my claim?

In addition, the Institute for Business & Home Safety has information on what a home owner and business owner can do to increase their protection against everyday storms as well as natural disasters. Visit their Web site at www.disastersafety.org.

The following insurance companies have set up 800 hotlines for those insureds.

Acuity: (800) 242-7666
Allstate: (800) 54-STORM or (800) 547-8676
American Skyline Insurance Co.: (888) 298-5224
American International Group: (800) 433-8880 (auto & home)
Atlantic Mutual: (800) 945-7461
Bituminous: (800) 822-2905 (Florida)
Church Mutual: (800) 554-2642
Citizens Property Insurance Corp.: (888) 685-1555
CHUBB: (800) CLAIMS-0 or (800) 252-4670
CNA: (877) 733-4250
CUNA Mutual: (800) 637-2676
Farmers: (800) 435-7764
Fireman's Fund: (888) FIRE-HAT or (888) 347-3428
GE Employers: (866) 413-8978
GEICO: (800) 841-3005
The Hartford: (800) 243-5860
Holyoke Mutual: (800) 225-2533
Industrial Risk Insurers: (860)520-7347 (commercial claims)
Liberty Mutual: (800) 2-CLAIMS or (800) 225-2467
Louisiana Farm Bureau: (866) 275-7322
Metropolitan Auto & Home: (800) 854-6011
Nationwide: (800) 421-3535
OneBeacon: (877) 248-4968
Royal & Sun Alliance: (800) 847-6925
SAFECO: (800) 332-3226
Selective: (866) 455-9969
Shelter Insurance Group: (800) SHELTER
St. Paul Travelers: (800) CLAIM-33 or (800) 252-4633
State Farm Insurance: (800) SF-CLAIM or (800) 732-5246
Texas Farm Bureau: (800) 772-6535
USAA: (800) 531-8222

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