Department of Commerce offers assistance and information for a storm damage claim
June 19, 2014
ST. PAUL — For more than a week, Minnesota has experienced significant precipitation throughout the state, causing flooding and damage. The severe weather is expected to continue through June 20th and could include damaging hail and wind. The Department of Commerce reminds consumers to review their auto and homeowners policy, contact their insurance agent and document property damage.
“It is important for Minnesotans who are hit with severe weather damage to promptly make insurance claims and visit the Department of Commerce’s Disaster Information Center,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. "In the event that consumers are unable to resolve their claim with their insurance company, call the Department of Commerce’s Consumer Response Team – we are here to help.”
Homeowners insurance: Am I Covered?
Homeowners policies do not always have the same coverage. It is very important to read your policy to determine what is covered, and the level of coverage that exists. If you cannot locate your policy, contact your insurance agent or company immediately. Your agent or company will usually be able to address your questions quickly and accurately. Many companies have Disaster Claim Teams that have been sent to the area.
The standard homeowners insurance coverage will cover most of your loss that would occur in windstorm or hail. However, most policies have deductibles that will apply. Coverage will usually cover the replacement cost for the damaged portion of your home, including any upgrades that are required by local codes when damage is repaired. Most contracts cover the expense of debris removal from you home. This coverage is usually provided in addition to the policy limit restriction that applies to the repair of the damage to your home or garage.
Even if fully insured for all perils, some losses will not be covered:
Cost of tree and debris removal when structures unharmed
Undamaged property, siding or shingles
Damage to property not involving structures
What Can I Expect?
The claims settlement statutes dictate that companies must handle claims in a fair and responsive manner. When severe weather hits, you can expect responses to most of your concerns or problems within a day or two. Though it is not required, some companies have set up programs that allow their on-site adjusters to issue checks in advance to cover some of the additional living expenses and replacement of some essential person property. Once you have made contact with your company adjuster, ask him/her about the availability of such programs.
Storm Damage to Vehicles
Hail can damage the exterior and glass. Coverage for these types of losses is provided by your policy under the "Comprehensive" portion of the auto policy. Some policies call this coverage "Other than Collision".
How to File and Settle a Claim
Call your agent or the claims processing center listed on your "Minnesota Insurance Identification Card."
Document the damage with photos.
Obtain estimates from repair facilities. Your insurance company may want more than one estimate including one from their preferred facility or claims center
Repairing Your Vehicle
If the repair estimates are less than the value of the auto, the insurer will likely proceed to pay for the repairs. Generally repair of the auto is made by using parts of the same year and manufacturer as the damaged auto (used parts). You cannot be required to accept "after-market parts".
You may choose your own repair facility. However, if that facility is not the low estimate, you may be responsible for paying the difference.
If the windshield and windows are damaged, original equipment glass is not required to affect replacement.
Hail damage can be repaired using the dent-less paint repair procedure. If the procedure does not repair the damage, replacement of the damaged parts would be required.
Can I ask for cash in lieu of repair? Yes, if you don't have a lien holder. However, the insurance company may subtract the profit/overhead that is in the bid of the repair facility. (You can't profit from a claim).
We Can Help
If you have a problem with your insurance company, call our Consumer Response Team (CRT). You can reach a CRT representative between the hours of 8:00am and 5:00pm, Monday through Friday.
Phone: (651) 539-1600 or (800) 657-3602 (Greater Minnesota)
Address: Minnesota Department of Commerce, Consumer Protection and Education Division, 85 7th Place East, St. Paul, MN 55101
If you are unable to resolve a problem or complaint with your insurance company, the CRT may be able to help. The Minnesota Department of Commerce investigates written complaints against licensees. Investigations seek to determine if there has been a violation of current Minnesota statutes or rules. If a violation has occurred, administrative sanctions (license revocation, fines, etc.) may be taken. The Department attempts to secure the payment of claims or obtain refunds for consumers who have been victimized by licensee misconduct. When filing a complaint:
Write, in your own words, the details of the dispute
Include as many details as possible such as dates, what was said, policy and claim numbers, etc.