(LANSING, MICH) Yesterday, March 20, 2022, not only marked the first day of spring, but it also marked the beginning of Severe Weather Awareness Week in Michigan, and the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) is encouraging all Michiganders ensure that they are prepared to respond to potential storms and recover from storm-related damage.
“Being prepared can make all the difference during a weather emergency,” said DIFS Director Anita Fox. “Preparing for severe weather events should always include verifying that you have the proper insurance coverage before weather-related damages occur. One way to accomplish that is by reading through your policies and discussing your coverage needs with your insurance agent or company.”
Weather emergencies can happen at any time. The changing temperatures that come with spring and summer can bring ever-changing weather conditions that significantly increase the potential for severe weather and flooding. The best way to make you and your family safer is to be prepared before an emergency occurs. In addition to preparing a family emergency plan, Michiganders should:
· Verify that you have the appropriate insurance coverage with your insurance agent or company and discuss any coverage needs. Though many types of storm damage are covered by homeowners and renters insurance, flood damage is typically not covered unless you have purchased federal flood insurance. Water and sewer back-up is also not automatically covered under a homeowners or renters policy. It is important to discuss these options with an insurance agent or insurance company well before flooding or damage occurs.
· Create a detailed list of personal possessions with photographs of each room on the property, and a thorough list of other valuables not seen in the photographs. These materials should be stored in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box, with a relative, or digitally online.
· Make a list of important phone numbers including family members, emergency responders, 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 securely in a digital format, such as in the cloud in case the originals are destroyed or lost.
If severe weather or flooding causes damages to your property, Michiganders should:
· Contact your insurance company’s claims hotline, and/or agent to report the claim. Have your policy number(s) ready and other relevant information easily available. To make the claims process even 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, you should tell your insurance company that there is water damage and you 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. Unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals may cause damage to drive up the repair cost and your insurance company will not cover the additional cost. Always verify the credentials and licensure of these individuals and be present in the home when damage is inspected or repaired. Remember insurance companies pay their adjusters as an employee of the company, and they should not ask you for any payment for their services. 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 Michigan.gov/DIFS or follow the Department on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.