PA Insurance Commissioner Offers Tips to Victims of Severe Storms

July 6, 2010

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=476&PageID=901&mode=2&contentid=http://pubcontent.state.pa.us/publishedcontent/publish/cop_hhs/insurance/news_and_media/news___media/articles/june_23__2010.html

June 23 Marks Anniversary of Deadly Tornado Outbreak in PA

Harrisburg – On the 66th anniversary of a huge tornado outbreak that killed more than 150 people in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and one day after severe storms hammered south-central Pennsylvania, Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario today reminded consumers that the Insurance Department is ready to assist with their insurance questions and needs after disaster strikes.

On June 22, fast-moving storms caused widespread destruction in Dauphin, Lancaster and Lebanon counties, damaging homes, uprooting trees and leveling farm buildings.

“People may feel overwhelmed or confused as they try to pick up the pieces in the wake of a severe storm,” Ario said. “The department is here to help with insurance-related questions and to offer tips to help get through the claims process.”

The department offers tips to help homeowners affected by severe weather: 

  • If you suffer property loss in your home or vehicle, contact your agent or insurance company as soon as possible to arrange a visit from an adjuster.
  • Before doing any repairs to your house, photograph and make a list of the damage.  Be sure to photograph or video the damaged area. Pull out any inventory lists you keep of your home’s contents.
  • Protect your home from further damage by making temporary repairs until your insurance company is able to advise you. Save any receipts for materials purchased for repairs. Do not throw away damaged property until the claims adjuster advises you to do so.
  • 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 you do make permanent repairs before the adjuster has seen the damage, your claim could be denied. 
  • Most damage resulting from fallen trees is covered by your homeowner’s policy. Check with your agent or company before calling the tree removal service as removal costs may also be covered. Also, you may find yourself responsible if one of your trees has fallen on a neighbor’s property. Again, check with your agent or company.
  • Remember, no homeowners policy covers flooding. The only way to protect your property from flood losses is to purchase flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program. Policies must be in place for 30 days before coverage takes effect. Contact your agent for more information.
  • If your claim is denied, review the terms of your policy for what is or is not covered. You may also file an appeal to your insurance company’s claim manager. If questions remain, feel free to contact the Insurance Department.
  • Be careful – there are a lot of good people and repair firms out there who want to help you and can. But there are others who may take advantage when you are most in need. Guard yourself against home repair con artists. Make sure you are working with a credible firm by checking to see if the contractor is registered with the state Attorney General at http://www.attorneygeneral.gov/hiccon.aspx?id=4502.  

 “Consumers need to be prepared so they are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous businesses or people,” Ario added. “Examine your options, get more than one estimate for your loss, ask for and check references and, most importantly, get everything in writing.”

 To learn about other tips when dealing with weather-related disasters, log onto www.insurance.pa.gov and choose “types of coverage”, then “homeowners insurance” on the left navigation bar. Consumers can also call the toll-free automated consumer hotline at 1-877-881-6388 or call the department’s Bureau of Consumer Services at 717-787-2317 (Harrisburg office) or 215-560-2630 (Philadelphia office).

 According to the National Weather Service, tornadoes have been reported in all 67 Pennsylvania counties since recordkeeping began. Although tornadoes can occur at any time of year, the majority of severe tornadoes strike during the months of May, June and July. To learn more about tornado preparedness, visit the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency online at www.pema.state.pa.us.

Media contact: Rosanne Placey or Melissa Fox, 717-787-3289

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