Sunday, June 1, marked the official start of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, and Virginia’s Bureau of Insurance is encouraging consumers to ensure that they have the insurance coverage they need and to develop a plan to protect themselves physically and financially before the winds and rains arrive.
“If you are a homeowner, renter, or business owner, make sure you have the insurance coverage you need before the first hurricane begins to brew,” Virginia Insurance Commissioner Jacqueline K. Cunningham advised. Once a hurricane develops in the Atlantic, it will be difficult to find an insurer willing to write related coverage until the storm threat passes.
The commissioner advised policyholders to review their existing insurance policy carefully to understand what it does and does not cover. Policyholders should contact their insurance agent or the state insurance department if they have any questions.
Some homeowners policies contain a special deductible for wind or hurricane losses. Some insurance companies automatically include a wind or hurricane deductible, while others offer this deductible at the policyholder’s option. The deductible is the amount that the insured is responsible for paying before the insurance company pays its portion of the claim.
Wind or hurricane deductibles may be written as a flat amount, such as $1,000. Or, they may be applied to the loss as a percentage of the insurance coverage on the dwelling. The amounts of these deductibles may vary depending upon where the insured lives, so the consumers should shop around and compare prices and terms, the Bureau suggested.
Virginia’s Bureau of Insurance also reminded consumers that most hurricane damage comes from flooding, not high winds. Homeowners insurance policies issued in Virginia generally do not provide coverage for damage to the home and belongings due to floods. The federal government sells insurance for direct flood and flood-related damage to residents of eligible communities through its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). But there is a waiting period for flood insurance policies to take effect. Consumers can contact their insurance agent or the NFIP at 1-888-379-9531 or www.floodsmart.gov to learn more about the program.
Policyholders may also want to consider the following:
• Do their insurance policies pay replacement costs, or actual cash value for a covered loss?
• Are contents of their home covered in the event of a hurricane? Homeowners policies generally cover contents up to specified limits, but additional coverage may be purchased.
• Are automobiles and other vehicles covered in the event of a hurricane or other windstorm?
• Are the policyholders covered in the event the sewer backs up?
Virginia’s Bureau of Insurance is also advising policyholders to prepare a complete inventory of their personal property ahead of time including serial numbers, photographs and videotapes, and to keep the inventory in a safe place.
The Bureau recommends the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ free smartphone app myHOME Scr.APP.book – which is downloadable from iTunes or Google Play – for preparing a home inventory. The Bureau says policyholders should take their inventory, as well as their homeowners, auto, and other insurance policies, with them if they are required to evacuate.
If the policyholder’s property is damaged by a hurricane, the Bureau advises that the policyholder make any necessary emergency repairs and take reasonable steps to protect the property from further damage and to make a list of all damage to the house and its contents and include photographs, notes, and repair-related receipts.
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