With Hurricane Matthew downgraded to a tropical cyclone, it is
time for affected businesses, property owners, and insurers to
focus on quantifying the amount of damage caused by the storm. By
some estimates, Hurricane Matthew will generation over 100,000
insurance claims and between $4 billion and $7.5 billion in
property losses. Although the focus is typically on pre-storm
preparation, the immediate steps taken this week will be important
to any business owner seeking to present an adequate claim to its
insurer for property damage.
Safety is always the first priority. Do not put yourself, your
employees, of first responders in danger. Currently
in North Carolina, the predictions are for worsening flooding in many low lying parts of the
eastern part of the state, with peak flooding not reaching some
areas until Wednesday (four days after the storm passed).
Once the threat of imminent danger has receded, the next step
should be to document your loss. Thorough documentation of the
damage to your property will be invaluable. Hopefully you will also
have photographs or video from before the storm, so that any claim
presented to an insurer can show both the before and after
photographs of the condition of the property. Because cell phones
and digital cameras are not limited by physical film, do not
hesitate to shoot dozens or hundreds of photographs. Videos may be
helpful as well.
At the same time you are documenting the damage, you should
immediately put your insurer on notice of the loss. You should call
your insurer to begin putting them on notice as soon as you arrive
at the property if you assess any physical loss. After you give
initial notice, you can follow up with complete details, provide
the photographs you have taken, etc. The insurer will likely
eventually send an adjuster to physical inspect the damage to the
It is important to quickly give notice for several reasons. As a
legal matter, giving prompt notice prevents having a claim denied
by an insurer on the basis of a late notice defense. As a practical
matter, because of the large number of claims that will be filed
within a short period of time, some insurers will likely handle the
claims on a first-come, first-serve basis. Getting your claim in
quickly gets you closer to the front of the line.
If immediate repairs are needed, take plenty of additional
photos of the damage, the repairs in progress, and the final
repairs. Maintain copies of documentation regarding the repairs,
and provide those to your insurer. If your business had to buy or
rent additional equipment as a result of the damage, or you
suffered inventory loss, you will want to maintain detailed
documentation of these costs as well.
Finally, whichever employee you assign to provide information to
the insurer should maintain a journal or notebook. This should
include copies of all documents submitted to the insurance company,
along with a log of all conversations with the insurer or its
representatives. The log should include the contact information of
anyone from the insurer that you have contacted with, the date and
time, the topics you discussed, and any additional information
which you believe may be useful in the future or in the event of a
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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