Warming Temperatures Can Bring Fast-Changing, Dangerous Weather
March 21 marked the beginning of Severe Weather Awareness Week in Michigan, and the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) is encouraging Michiganders to make sure they are prepared to respond to potential storms and recover from storm-related damage.
“A severe weather event such as a tornado or a flash flood can cause unexpected disruptions to our lives and damage our homes or personal property, which can be costly for those without adequate insurance coverage,” said DIFS Director Anita Fox. “One way to be prepared for natural disasters is to verify that you have the appropriate insurance coverages before disaster strikes to help you get your life back to normal as quickly as possible.”
The warming temperatures of spring and summer often bring fast-changing weather conditions that greatly increase the potential for severe weather. In addition to preparing a family emergency plan, consumers should:
- Review insurance policies to understand their coverage and contact their insurance agent or company to discuss any coverage needs. Though many types of storm damage are covered by standard homeowners insurance, flood damage is typically not covered unless the homeowner has purchased additional coverage such as federal flood insurance or a sewer back-up policy. It is important to discuss these options with an insurance agent or insurance company well before flooding or damage occurs.
- Prepare a detailed inventory of personal property with photographs of each room in the home and a detailed list of other valuables and equipment that do not appear in the photos. These materials should be stored in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box, with a relative, or electronically online.
- Make a list of important telephone numbers including family members, insurance agents, and insurance companies.
- Store copies of all insurance policy declaration pages and insurance cards in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box or online in the cloud in case the originals are destroyed or lost.
After severe weather or flooding causes damage, consumers should:
- Contact their insurance company’s claims hotline and/or agent to report the claim. Have the policy number and other relevant information readily available. To make this process easier, DIFS has prepared an Insurance Claims Tracking Sheet.
- Take steps to protect the property and prevent further loss but do not make permanent repairs until the insurance company has inspected the damage. Be sure to keep receipts for any purchases of supplies that are needed to protect the property.
- Document the loss. Take pictures or videos of the damaged items and do not get rid of the items until instructed to do so by the insurance company.
- If there is water damage, consumers should tell their insurance company that there is water damage and they are looking to determine what coverage is available. Water damage is not necessarily the same as flood damage, so consumers should not simply state that the damage is due to a “flood.” There may be additional causes for water damage, such as a sewer backup or failing sump pump, that may be covered under the policy.
- Protect themselves from fraud. After a storm, adjusters, contractors, and other solicitors may offer to inspect or repair damage. Always verify the credentials and licensure of these individuals and be present in the home when damage is inspected or repaired. To report a scam or price gouging, contact Michigan’s Attorney General at 877-765-8388 or online for further information.
For additional information on preparing for severe weather in Michigan, visit the DIFS Disaster Preparedness webpage.
DIFS encourages consumers to first attempt to resolve any claim disputes directly with their insurance company. If a resolution cannot be reached, DIFS will help try to resolve disputes. To learn more and file a complaint, visit Michigan.gov/DIFScomplaints. Anyone with questions or concerns about their insurance coverage is asked to call the DIFS toll-free hotline 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 877-999-6442.
The mission of the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services is to ensure access to safe and secure insurance and financial services fundamental for the opportunity, security, and success of Michigan residents, while fostering economic growth and sustainability in both industries. In addition, the Department provides consumer protection, outreach, and financial literacy and education services to Michigan residents. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/difs or follow the Department on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.