Expert tips for filing a claim and how to avoid becoming a victim of contractor fraud
AAA – The Auto Club Group is mobilizing hundreds of insurance claims professionals from around the country to begin processing claims throughout Florida, as soon as it’s safe to do so. AAA - which provides both home and auto insurance policies in Florida - anticipates a significant number of claims, due to widespread flooding and wind damage. Because of that, AAA insurance professionals from around the country are being brought in to assist.
“Our thoughts are with all Florida residents who were impacted by Hurricane Ian," said Jennifer Pintacuda, President of AAA’s Florida-based insurance providers. "We are pulling together as many resources as we can to help residents start the recovery process as soon as possible."
"Once conditions are safe to do so, we encourage residents to begin assessing their properties, document any damage, and contact their insurance providers immediately to begin the claims process," Pintacuda continued. "Many providers like AAA offer multiple ways to file a claim, whether that be over the phone, online or a mobile app."
AAA’s Tips for Residents
- Document damage as soon as possible. Take photographs and videos for your insurance claim and personal records. The more documentation you have, the easier it is to file your claim.
- Prevent further damage. Do only what’s necessary to prevent further damage, such as covering broken windows with plastic or getting a pro to cover the roof with tarps to keep rain out.
- Document expenses and keep receipts for any preliminary repairs, displacement or other out-of-pocket expenses related to the claim, which can count toward your deductible. This could include tree removal, tarps, ice chests for food, overnight stay in a hotel, etc.
- Contact your insurance company immediately to begin the claims process.
- Be leery of contractors who go door-to-door offering repair services and promising to file an insurance claim on your behalf.
- Hire a licensed contractor to do the repairs after an insurance adjuster has reviewed the damage.
In cases of extreme damage…
If your home is destroyed or uninhabitable, find a safe place where your family can stay while your home is repaired. The loss-of-use coverage in a standard homeowners insurance policy typically helps pay for your family’s lodging as long as the damage is part of a covered claim. Check your policy or ask your insurance agent to make sure you have this coverage and to determine its monetary value and time limits. If you need help locating temporary housing options, here is more information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Be Leery of Unlicensed or Deceptive Contractors
AAA cautions residents about the potential of contractor fraud. The aftermath of a hurricane or other severe storm creates the opportunity for scammers and unlicensed contractors to take advantage of those who need help.
Dishonest contractors may try to profit by:
- Accepting payment then never completing (or even showing up for) the job.
- Using inferior materials or performing work that’s not up to code.
Red Flags to Watch For:
- Contractor shows up unsolicited.
- Points out damage you have not previously noticed.
- Asks for full payment up front and/or in cash only.
- Promises services at no charge to you or offers to waive your insurance deductible.
- Pressures you to encourage your family, friends, or neighbors to hire them for services.
- Offers you a discount for letting them use leftover materials from a previous job.
- Before hiring someone to make repairs, contact your insurance company to file your claim and ensure the damage is covered by your policy.
- Get itemized written estimates from at least three different licensed, insured contractors.
- Before you sign any paperwork and before a contractor starts work, allow your insurance company to come out and inspect the damages first.
- Work only with licensed and insured contractors.
Check the Contractor’s Credentials
Do not allow a contractor to inspect your property, including your roof, until you have verified that they are licensed and insured.
- Verify the contractor has an active, valid Florida license at www.MyFloridaLicense.com.
- Check for complaints filed against him or her on the Better Business Bureau’s website at www.BBB.org.
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Dealing With Flood-Damaged Vehicles
Widespread flooding will likely result in significant damage to vehicles. Flooding is often covered by "comprehensive" auto insurance policies. However, because Floridians are not required to carry this coverage option, some may not be protected.
When a car has been partially or completely submerged, AAA recommends the following:
- Do not attempt to start a vehicle if the water level rose above the door opening and the interior of the car is wet. Doing so could cause major problems if flood water has contaminated the engine oil or other vehicle fluids.
- Take photos from the exterior of the vehicle. Do not open the doors if the water levels are still high.
- Once the waters have receded, take photos of the interior.
- Contact your insurance provider.
About AAA - The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America with more than 13 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 62 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA’s mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.