A lightning loss is many times problematic for the homeowner. Over the years, I have taken note of three problems that sometimes arise. First, most people are not aware of all the items damaged by this one occurrence. Second, many people believe the cost is under their deductible. Third, many do not realize they are required to report the loss immediately.
First, most people are not aware of all the items damaged by this one occurrence. After a strike, you may notice a problem with one appliance, like a TV that will not come on. You may even think, it has just quit working for no apparent reason. You may later notice the microwave no longer heats. You then find that your phone is out. At this point, you should consider a possible lightning strike. Was there a thunderstorm recently?
Second, many people believe the cost is under their deductible. If you have a $2,500.00 deductible, you will not receive an insurance settlement for damages done to a $499.99 TV and $129.00 phone. You should quickly go through the whole house and check all appliances and see if they are working. You may even want to have an electrician look at your breaker box and outlets and determine if they were damaged. Wires are sometimes damaged which later can cause a fire. Sometimes the cost is more than you first realize.
Third, many do not realize they are required to report the loss immediately. This point goes hand in hand with the previous two points. Did you find all damaged items and is the projected cost over the deductible? Are you required to report an insurance loss if a loss is under the deductible? I recommend you ask your agent for the answer to this question and also read Your Duties After Loss as outline in your policy. Your Duties After Loss may vary from the wordage that follows.
Please see a sample of Duties After Loss. The wording found in this sample policy may be different from the wording found in your policy. Failure to comply with the wording in your policy could result in your entire claim being denied. While the majority of the homeowners' insurance policies address the Coverages, Conditions, and Responsibilities of the insurance company, this section addresses the responsibilities and duties of the insured after a loss. Failure of the insured to perform these duties can potentially reduce or even negate insurance coverage that would otherwise be available.
The following are general suggestions and are not all inclusive of how the insured should respond in every case.
1. Give prompt notice to us or our agent;
You are required to notify your insurance company or agent promptly after a loss.
4. Protect the property from further damage. If repairs to the property are required you must:
a. Make reasonable and necessary repairs to protect the property; and
b. Keep an accurate record of repair expenses
You are required to protect your property. This is not the insurance company's responsibility. They do not have to send a contractor out to keep your property from being damaged further. You must do this. A common mistake made by some insureds after they suffer a catastrophic loss is to abandon all property at the loss location. If some of the property is not damaged and you do nothing to protect the undamaged portion of the property which is subsequently damaged by another occurrence, like rain, it is possible that you will not be able collect for these new damages. If you do take steps to protect your property and another occurrence causes a loss, this newly damaged property should be covered since you made the effort in good faith to protect covered property.
Additional factors to consider are:
Did you protect the property in a timely manner and did you do an adequate job to protect your property? You cannot be required to personally perform any temporary repairs for which you are not qualified or capable; you may select a qualified, licensed contractor to perform these duties.
The cost for temporary repairs has to be reasonable. What is reasonable after a storm? You can bet it will cost more to tarp a house after a storm than what it would have cost before the storm hit. The answer to what is reasonable may not be cut and dry. One contractor might charge $750.00 to tarp a house, and yet another contractor might charge $1,100.00 to tarp the exact same type of house. In reality, either of these charges might be considered reasonable by your insurance company. What may not be reasonable is for another contractor to charge $9,000.00 to perform these same services. Before you hire a contractor to do some temporary repairs, you may want to get a bid and ask him if his cost is comparable with the majority of the other contractors in the area performing the same services. Your insurance company may not have to reimburse you for the full cost to do temporary repair if they can prove the cost was not "reasonable". You should be aware that the cost you incur for temporary repairs does not increase the policy limit and will limit the amount available to make repairs.
Keep all receipts for repair costs you incurred. Try not to pay in cash, but if you do pay cash - get a receipt for the services on company letterhead. Keep a written log of the hours you spend doing your own repairs, cleanup, and demolition work. The insurance company usually owes you a fair reimbursement for your labor. Be careful to include only the actual time spent working. You may not be reimbursed the full hourly rate cost a professional would have charged if it takes you four times longer to perform the same work.
5. Cooperate with us in the investigation of a claim;
Your policy probably does not define the word cooperate. If you find that you are not able to comply with a request made by your insurance company, you should speak with a professional.
6. Prepare an inventory of damaged personal property showing the quantity, description, actual cash value and amount of loss. Attach all bills, receipts and related documents that justify the figures in the inventory;
You need to create the personal property inventory sheet for your insurance company. (An example of a detailed personal property inventory estimate has been proved for your review. A blank personal property inventory sheet has also been provided for your convenience and use.) You will need to list how many of each item was damaged, describe the damaged item, the cost to replace the item, and its age. The age of these damaged items are used to determine Actual Cost Value. If your damaged items were old but in excellent condition, make this very clear to your insurance company. Remember the cost to replace a damage item now will usually be higher than what it originally cost.
7. As often as we reasonably require:
a. Show the damaged property
b. Provide us with records and documents we request and permit us to make copies; and
c. Submit to questions under oath and sign and swear to them;
You have to allow the insurance company to inspect your property as often as they feel is necessary in order to complete your claim. As long as they give you at least 48 hours notice before they inspect, it is usually best to allow the re-inspection. It is probably best not to deny the insurance company access to your property without first speaking with your attorney.
You can be required to deliver records and documents. This requirement is not specific as to what records and documents. Never claim or suggest that you have written information if, in fact, you do not possess it. ALWAYS BE TRUTHFUL.
You and your spouse may be required to answer questions under oath in separate examinations. Your reply to these questions might be evaluated for consistency and accuracy. It may be wise to obtain legal counsel before attending any E.U.O. (Examination Under Oath) meetings.
8. Send to us, within 60 days after our request, your signed, sworn proof of loss which sets forth, to the best of your knowledge and belief:
a. The time and cause of loss;
b. The interest of the "insured" and all others in the property involved and all liens on the property;
c. Other insurance which may cover the loss;
d. Changes in title or occupancy of the property during the term of the policy;
e. Specifications of damaged buildings and detailed repair estimates;
f. Inventory of damaged personal property described in 2. e. above;
g. Receipts for additional living expense incurred and records that support the fair rental value loss; and
h. Evidence or affidavit that supports a claim under E.6. Credit Card, Electronic Fund Transfer Card Or Access Device, Forgery And Counterfeit Money under Section I – Property Coverages: stating the amount and cause of loss.
If required by YOUR insurance company, send them a Sworn Proof of Loss. Some policies require the insured to submit a Sworn Proof of Loss after a loss. Other policies simply say send us this proof within 60 days after we request it. IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW WHAT YOUR POLICY REQUIRES. Some insurance companies have Sworn Proof of Loss Form which meets their criteria. This form must be completed fully, accurately, and within the specified time limit. You insurance company may require specific information (see list above) which must accompany the Proof of Loss. Submission of the information required by the insurance company is critical. You are required to submit a detailed building estimate. This could entail many pages of single spaced line item details. (An example of a detail estimate has been provided for your review.) A copy of individual estimates from contractors may not be sufficient if they are not detailed. You will need to submit a copy of the personal property estimate outlining the quantity, description, and actual cash value of the items claimed. (An example has been provided.) You will need to attach photocopies of all bills, receipts, and related documents that justify the figures in the inventory. To submit a valid building estimate and a comprehensive personal property inventory list as outlined in the policy may be more that what the average policyholder can provide immediately after a catastrophic loss. If you fail to provide this documentation within the proper time period, or fail to provide all necessary documentation, you may jeopardize full recovery of your claim.