What to know when filing a hurricane insurance claim

A step-by-step to figure out what insurance will cover and what else you can do beyond filing a claim

Hurricane damaged home
In the event of a hurricane, it's vital to "contact your insurer and start documenting your claim right away"
(Image credit: John Coletti / Getty Images)

Hurricane season has already resulted in a lot of destruction in 2023, and it won't be over until Nov. 30. These storms can bring with them a range of potential causes for damage, from strong winds that can knock down trees or rip up a roof to heavy rainfall and storm surges that can lead to extensive flooding. 

If you own a home in an area that's susceptible to hurricane damage, it's important to know what will (and won't) be covered in the event the worst happens, as well as what steps you'll need to take to file a claim and get back on your feet.

What's usually covered by insurance in the event of a hurricane?

What sort of coverage you'll have in the event of a hurricane depends on the type of policy you have. According to ValuePenguin, "hurricanes themselves aren't named as either a covered or excluded peril, but their effects, such as wind and flooding, are." Here's the level of coverage you might anticipate for the various effects:

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Flooding and water damage: Per ValuePenguin, while homeowners insurance covers some forms of water damage, it "almost certainly excludes flooding or storm surges from a hurricane." For coverage here, you'll need to have purchased flood insurance.

Wind damage: "Homeowners insurance policies in some hurricane-prone states won’t pay for windstorm damage," according to Nerdwallet, meaning you'll need to purchase a separate windstorm insurance policy if you live in one of those states. If you're not in one of those states, "wind damage, such as shingles blowing off a roof or a tree being ripped up, is covered by most homeowners insurance policies," reported ValuePenguin.

Additional living expenses: If damage to your home necessitates paying for additional living expenses, that cost will likely be covered by homeowners, renters, or condo insurance, reported The Balance. However, if you're looking for coverage because you relocated during an evacuation, "homeowners insurance won't cover your expenses," reported ValuePenguin.

Damage to your car: For this, you'll need to rely on auto insurance. According to ValuePenguin, if you have comprehensive coverage, damage your vehicle sustains because of a hurricane should be covered. If you only have liability coverage, that damage wouldn't be covered.

How do you file a claim after a hurricane?

In the event of a hurricane, it's vital to "contact your insurer and start documenting your claim right away," advised Kiplinger. But what steps should you take and in which order? Here's a rundown:

1. Notify your homeowners insurance company. This will get the ball rolling and also make you more informed. From this conversation forward, keep detailed notes on your interactions with the insurance company, recommended Forbes.

2. Document damages with photos and videos. Also jot down information on the estimated value and date of purchase for the item, as well as the nature of the damage.

3. Ensure you understand your policy's coverage and limits. Per Forbes, this will "help you understand what you’ll be compensated for when you file a home insurance claim and what your maximum payout will be."

Is there anything else you can do beyond filing a claim?

If you're looking for further help as you navigate the post-hurricane fallout, here are some other resources to look into:

Hire a public adjuster: If you're not feeling confident in your insurance adjuster's evaluation and estimates, or you simply want help navigating the claims process, you could hire a public adjuster. Just note you will have to pay for this assistance — per Forbes, public adjusters "usually charge a percentage of your settlement, which can range between 3% and 30%."

Request in-person support: According to Kiplinger, you could get your state insurance department to send out staff to answer questions and help you communicate with your insurer. Additionally, insurance companies may also have mobile claims units.

Investigate other forms of assistance: Your insurance company isn't the only place you can turn to. Per Kiplinger, state emergency management agencies often provide resources like "emergency housing, medical and financial assistance from a variety of nonprofits and government agencies." You might also look for help at a FEMA disaster recovery center or check if you'd qualify for SBA Disaster Loan Assistance, Kiplinger suggested.

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