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Making Insurance Claims Following a Disaster


Making Insurance Claims Following a Disaster

Both man-made and natural disasters can cause damage to homes, cars, and other property that is expensive to repair or replace.

Your homeowners, renters, auto, and/or other insurance policies may cover the cost of the damage you sustained because of a disaster.

To receive payment from your insurance, you will have to file a claim.  Following is key information and tips for filing a claim:

Most insurance companies have procedures and time limits that you must follow in order to file a claim after a disaster.  Filing a claim goes much more smoothly if you have:

  • A copy of your policy (in your essential and financial documents lock box)
  • An inventory of your home contents in your essential and financial documents lock box)
  • Before and after pictures of your property and the damage it has sustained
  • Receipts for any immediate repairs you had to make

To file the claim, call your local insurance agent, the insurance company, visit them online, or visit them in person.  Larger insurance companies often set up mobile claims centers following disasters.

If you cannot find the company or agent’s information, contact National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) by calling 1-866-470-6242 or by going to

Your claim will involve listing all of the items damaged or destroyed.  If you do not have an inventory, you will need to make a list from memory.  Make a list of every room in your home (your house, condominium, apartment, or mobile home). Try to think of everything that was in each room and write it down.  Write down as much detail as you can.  Include:

  • A description of the item
  • How much it cost (this will be an estimate)
  • Where you got the item

Your insurance company will send an adjuster to look at the damage.  Be sure to check his or her identification.  Remember, after disasters, con artists pose as representatives from governmental agencies, charitable organizations, and insurance companies.

The insurance company will write a settlement based on your claim and the survey done by the adjuster. If you disagree with any terms on the settlement, do not sign it.  For example, they may not cover items you feel should be covered, or the amount they offer to cover the items may be for less than you anticipated or believe is fair.

If you cannot come to an agreement with your insurance company, check with your state department of insurance at  They may be able to help you set up a mediation process to settle with your insurance company.

If your insurance company delays in responding to your claim, call the claims department to find out if an adjuster has been assigned. Verify your contact details, especially if you have evacuated your home. Contact your state department of insurance at if you feel the response has been excessively delayed.

Even after settling your claim, if you think of items that were not in your initial loss list, contact your insurance company. Unless the company has paid the entire limit for the coverage of those types of items, it is possible the company will make an additional payment.

If your damages exceed the amount of your coverage, federal agencies will occasionally provide grants or low-interest loans to assist with recovery following major disasters. Check with your local disaster center or state insurance department for more information.


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Information is great. But taking small steps now can lead to big changes.
  • Today
  • Pull together all of the documents you need to file an insurance claim, including a home inventory.
  • Next Week
  • If you don’t have an inventory, you will need to create one for your claim.
  • During the Next Few Months
  • Work with your insurance company to file a claim and come to a settlement agreement.
  • Get your credit reports to make sure there are no fraudulent accounts or activity following the disaster, when many people may have had access to your personal information.