Residential Damage Claims – When to File

One of the first things you want to do if your home sustained Hurricane Maria damage is file a damage claim with your insurance provider. However, without electricity, phone service, or internet access, many Puerto Ricans have been forced to wait.

Things You Can Do While You Wait

Whether you are filing a damage claim with a private insurer or through the National Flood Insurance Program, you will need proof of your losses. Begin developing this proof by making a list of lost or damaged personal possessions for everyone in your home. Go room by room and write down everything you remember being in that room as well as when it was purchased.

Take pictures of the manufacturing tags of large items, like appliances, televisions, and game consoles that have information such as the make and model of the item. For smaller items that do not have tags, take pictures and write detailed descriptions of each item. Later, when internet access is restored you can look up the prices for these items for your Proof of Loss documentation.

Filing a Claim with the NFIP

If you have an insurance policy with FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, an enhanced claims process has been established to streamline Hurricane Irma and Maria damage claims. FEMA has also instructed all of its private insurance providers to-

  • Provide policyholders with advanced payments for claims, without making them wait for an adjuster to inspect the damage;
  • Provide larger advance payments of claims when the policyholder provides acceptable proof of flood damage;
  • Waive filing of the initial Proof of Loss (POL) statement; and,
  • Extend the 30-day grace period for policy renewals.

    FEMA established these policies to be able to get money into the hands of policyholders quickly, so they can begin to rebuild their lives. But to qualify for the advanced payouts, you will need to file a claim and provide proof of your identity. Any advanced payment you receive will be deducted from the total claim payment, and when you accept the payout, you are certifying that your property sustained damage from Hurricane Maria.

    If you have a policy, you can apply for up to $5,000 in advanced payouts. Homeowners who suffered severe damage can apply for up to $20,000 in advanced payments if acceptable proof of damage is submitted with your application, which includes photos or videos of the damage, or an itemized statement of damage from a contractor. If you are paying a mortgage on your home, FEMA will issue the advanced payment as payable to you AND your mortgage provider.

    Filing a Proof of Loss (POL) Statement

    While you would normally be required to submit Proof of Loss documentation with your application, FEMA has waived that requirement for one year from the date of the storm. This waiver does not prevent you filing a claim if you disagree with the insurance adjuster’s assessment of damage.

    When you file a claim, an insurance adjuster will come to inspect your damage and draft a report of the damage for the insurance provider. You will receive a notice from your provider if it accepts your claim that lists the total amount of money the provider will pay for your claim. If you disagree with the amount being paid for the claim or if you discover additional damage to your home that the adjuster did not note in his report, you can then file a POL to request additional funds.

    Even though FEMA has required the NFIP providers to issue advance payments, you may experience problems with this process. In addition, you may experience problems recovering the full value of your claim because some insurance companies are denying valid claims or underpaying damage claims. If this happens to you, our insurance attorneys can help. We are fighting for the rights of Puerto Rico residents impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. You don’t have to fight the insurance company alone — we are here to help by taking up that fight for you so that you can focus on your recovery.

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