After Hurricane Irene: How to File an Insurance Claim

| August 30, 2011 3:24 PM | Updated: August 30 4:29 PM

Hurricane Irene caused severe damage in Astoria, Queens. If your property experienced any damage, contact your insurance company or insurance agent immediately. AP/Jason DeCrow

Even if you’re just getting your life back together after the stress and chaos of Hurricane Irene, if your property was damaged by the storm, it’s important to file an insurance claim quickly.

Here is what residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut can do to make sure they receive fair treatment from their insurer:

For all Tri-State residents with property damage:

  • The first step is to contact your insurance company or insurance agent with your policy number and relevant information as soon as possible. Check your policy, look online or call your insurer today; some insurance companies require that you do this within a certain time frame. Ask what documents, forms and data you will need to file a claim and in what format your insurer needs to receive them (fax, email, JPG, PDF, USPS, etc.)
  • Take photos of any damage, and video if possible, as soon as possible.  If you aim to show flooding, having a huge puddle or obviously wet property will help your claim.  Keep an accurate inventory of all damaged items. After you’ve documented the damage, make only necessary repairs to prevent further damage, such as fixing broken windows, but do not make permanent repairs until after your insurance company has inspected the property. Save all receipts related to repair costs.
  • If the damage to your home is so great that you can’t live there, contact your insurance company to see if they will cover additional living expenses.   Some insurers are very specific about what expenses they will cover (hotels versus short term rentals or sublets).

A tree falls down across neighboring yards in Sunset Park, Brooklyn after Hurricane Irene. MetroFocus/Charnée Perez.

  • Keep a diary of all conversations you have with the insurance company and your insurance agent, including names, times and dates of the calls or visits and contact details.
  • Give your insurance company or agent all of the information they need in order to make the process as efficient as possible.
  • If the first offer made by the insurance company does not meet your expectations, be prepared to negotiate. If there is a disagreement about the claim, ask the company for the specific language in the policy in question and determine why you and the company interpret your policy differently.
  • Your full claim may come in multiple payments. The first will likely be an emergency advance and may include additional living expenses. The payment for your personal property and any additional living expenses will likely be in a check made out to you. Payments for the structure may be payable to you and your lien-holder if there is a mortgage on your home. Lenders may place that money in an escrow account to pay for repairs as the work is completed.

New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office issued the following advice:

  • Consumers should contact their insurer to get answers to specific questions about their policies. Consumers who need additional help should feel free to contact the New York State Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Bureau at 800-342-3736, which operates from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
  • Only call the Department’s disaster hotline with true emergencies.  They can be reached at 800-339-1759, which will be open starting Monday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for as long as needed

New Jersey:  The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Tom Considine issued the following advice:

  • Call your insurer  or visit a mobile claims center to start your claim. If you cannot find the company or agent’s number, or if you need general assistance, call the Department at 1-800-446-7467.
  • For more information on flood insurance availability through the NFIP, go to:

Connecticut:The following advice was issued by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.

  • For additional information and insurance company listings visit the CT Irene Resource page.
  • If you feel you are being treated unfairly or have questions call consumer helplines at 860-297-3900 or 800-203-3447.
  • Elizabeth Grasmueck

    I have a HUGE oak tree that was uprooted and split in half. It HAS to come down and tree removal for this is between $800 to $1,000 or MORE. I’m disabled, living on a fixed income, and barely getting by. I HAVE NO MONEY FOR THIS! The next time it gets windy here, the tree is sure to crash into my house or neighbor’s house. Called my insurance agent and was told that as long as it didn’t hit the house, they won’t pay. Again, I don’t have that kind of money! Any suggestions besides my waiting for it to fall down on my house and possibly kill me or the people next door????

  • colleen

    @ Elizabeth- contact area churches. their men’s and youth groups may have volunteers to come out with a chain saw to help you!! Your religious affiliation will not matter. Good luck!!

  • migwar

    I had a situation a few years ago, in which a huge branch from my tree fell onto my neighbor’s roof. It was a dangerous situation, so I paid a tree company over a thousand dollars to carefull remove the 1,000+ pound branch. It cost me over a thousand dollars. My insurance company would not reimburse me a dime, and my neighbors filed a claim for the damage to their roof. I believe their insurance company may have been reimbursed by my insurance company for part or all of that cost, but my neighbors did not recover their $500 deductible. I am a lawyer, and I still can’t understand the stupidity of these insurance companies.

  • halfracer

    The insurance coverage involved is the coverage on the damaged property (your neighbors house) unless you can be proved negligent for knowing it was unsafe and not having removed it beforehand(usually difficult to prove). That coverage normally includes removal of the huge branch. It was generous of you to donate to their insurance company.

  • bvosstx

    Keep in mind that many states have hurricane deductibles on property insurance claims; however, as I read in a Baltimore paper, counties that received a hurricane warning do not have to pay that hurricane deductible. For all of you getting ready to file a Hurricane Irene insurance claim, here’s another good site for info

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