Good bye winter, hello spring. In Texas, spring means turbulent winds, heavy rains, and hail storms. Texans have a saying “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 20 minutes, it will get better; or worse.” Insurance is the only product, that as a consumer, you pray you never have to use. If you do sustain damage, here are a few steps to help aid in making a decision to file a claim or to handle the repairs yourself.
First, determine the extent of your damages. Identify if there a water stains on your bedroom ceiling; missing shingles on the roof, or damage to your wood siding or trim. Try to focus on the big things, and don’t worry if you miss something, your contractor will point out all the small things.
Second, contact a reputable contractor. It is a good idea to choose a contractor though websites that track ratings or that give customer feedback. There are many online websites that organize and list contractors in your area and evaluate levels of expertise. A few of the better websites are angieslist.com, servicemagic.com , or Austin.BBB.org. If you are skeptical of some of the pay-to-play sites; ask friends, family or neighbors who they used when they had a similar issue.
Next, decide on three contractors and have them prepare an estimate for your damages. It is best to not let them know that there will be an insurance claim. However, it is good to let them know that there are other contractors bidding for the same work. They will be less-likely to add extras to the estimate, and give you a lower rate. Perhaps the most important reason for meeting with three potential contractors is that you can compare the knowledge that each party has for the types of repair needed and detect any fluff that may be added into the repairs that maybe unnecessary.
By getting three estimates for damages, you move to the fourth step. Evaluate whether your damages exceed your insurance deductible. If the estimates are less than your deductible you can choose the best contractor for the job and start repairs. If the estimates exceed your deductible, you can proceed with a insurance claim.
It is important to understand that any claim filed can have some effect on your overall policy rates. So it is a good idea to decide if the amount over your deductible is worth causing a rate change to your policy. For example, the estimate is only two hundred dollars over your deductible, and you can afford to complete the repairs; it is a good idea to handle the repairs on your own, as a majority of the cost of repairs is already out-of-pocket. Insurance is designed to handle those catastrophic events that you can’t afford to pay.
Now that you have your damages confirmed, properly evaluated that it exceeds your deductible, and have a good idea who you want to complete the repairs; it is time to file your claim. Call your insurance agent directly, or most companies have websites designed to file a claim quickly and efficiently. Your adjuster should be out within a week and will make an accurate assessment as to what your damages are and if they are covered. A word to the wise, BE NICE TO YOUR ADJUSTER, at least in the beginning. They are the voice and face of the insurance company. Make them happy, they will fight to get your damages covered and paid for; make them mad, and you better get your wallet ready to do your own repairs.