Are You Prepared for Hurricane Season? Insurance Commissioner Goodwin Offers Tips and Warnings

This week is national Hurricane Preparedness Week, and next week marks the beginning of hurricane season, June 1-Nov. 30. That's why Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin is reminding North Carolinians to get a head start on disaster preparedness before a storm strikes.

"One of the most basic ways for people to get prepared is to review their insurance policies, inventory their home's contents and compile important documents in a safe place," explains Commissioner Goodwin. "Knowing what your coverage is now gives you the chance to make adjustments and have those adjustments take effect before a storm comes to North Carolina." A lot of homeowners and renters are not familiar with their policies and may think they have more coverage than they really do, Goodwin added.

Because hurricane season is just around the corner, that’s why Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin is reminding North Carolinians to get a head start on disaster preparedness before a storm strikes.

"We want people to have the insurance coverage they need to weather any storm that comes to North Carolina,” said Commissioner Goodwin. “I also encourage North Carolinians to be on the lookout for unscrupulous businesses that take advantage of folks when they need help and are most vulnerable. I’ve heard from criminal investigators on my staff that storm-related scams are on the rise in North Carolina.”

Department investigators have seen an increase in companies who are conning consumers into repair work for damage that isn’t really there. According to investigators here’s how it works:

After a storm, roofing companies learn from news reports which areas may have storm, hail or wind damage. They go to those neighborhoods and travel door-to-door telling homeowners their roof is damaged and needs repairing or in some cases to be replaced. According to investigators, often there is no roof damage and sometimes the damage is even intentionally caused. This can be prosecuted as insurance fraud. At a minimum, unsuspecting homeowners end up paying a deductible for a new roof they did not need.

An estimated 10 cents of every dollar paid in premiums goes toward the payment of fraudulent claims. To report suspected fraud, contact the Department of Insurance Criminal Investigations Division at 919-807-6840.

To avoid being the victim of a scam, Commissioner Goodwin and your Department of Insurance suggest that North Carolinians follow these tips:

If you suffer property loss in your home or vehicle, contact your insurance agent or insurance company as soon as possible to arrange a visit from an adjuster. The Department of Insurance will be in close contact with top insurance companies doing business in the state. We will have up-to-date consumer hotline numbers available for those who need to contact their companies.

Before doing any repairs to your house, photograph and make a list of the damage.

Protect your home from further damage by making temporary repairs only, until your insurance company can advise you further. Save any receipts for materials purchased for repairs.

Do not have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs.

If necessary, rent temporary shelter. If your home is uninhabitable due to physical damage (not lack of power or water), most homeowners policies pay additional living expenses while your property is being repaired. Before renting temporary shelter, check with your insurance company or agent to determine what expenses will be reimbursed.

Always remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Deal only with licensed agents and companies.

The Department also urges citizens to remember these tips in preparing for hurricane season:

Homeowners should review their insurance policies with their agents annually. Ask, “What exactly does my policy cover, and what needs are not met?” Consider that homeowners policies do not cover flood damage, and some policies in coastal areas may not cover windstorm damage. Don’t wait until the storm is approaching to upgrade your coverage.

Flood insurance can be obtained by qualifying property owners by contacting your local agent or through the National Flood Insurance program. Call 800-638-6620 for more information.

Residents living in rental property should consider purchasing renter’s insurance to cover losses of personal property within the rental unit. Your landlord’s policy will not cover your personal possessions in the event of a loss.

Consider the type of coverage you purchase — actual cash value or replacement value. Replacement value will pay to replace your home at current building costs and with similar materials. This is usually a higher value and can cost a bit more, but this extra coverage can be important if your home is destroyed in a storm.

Make a list of your belongings and take pictures or videotape them. Include a close-up shot of the day’s newspaper to provide the date. Keep your inventory list along with purchase receipts, pictures and your insurance policy in a safe-deposit box or other safe place away from your home. If you are forced to evacuate, take a copy of your policy with you.

If you have any questions or problems concerning your insurance coverage, contact the Department of Insurance’s Consumer Services Division toll-free (in-state) at 800-546-5664.

For more information, go to the official website for the NC Department of Insurance or news media like The Laurinburg Exchange,WRAL-TV (including a brief analysis of the Top 5 hurricanes to strike NC in recent times), New Bern Sun Journal, the Raleigh News & Observer, et al., during hurricane season.

Map and photo: courtesy NOAA.

CROSS-POSTED from "Wayne's World" blog