Simple steps can help if Irene leads to insurance claim

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - With Hurricane Irene moving over the Atlantic Ocean and getting closer to the Carolina coast, it is too late to add or change most insurance policies. However, people can lay out a game plan that will help if they have to make a claim.

"You're stuck with what you have," explained Allstate insurance agent Maurice Stephens in Myrtle Beach.

He said that is the case with almost all insurance along the Carolina coast right now because Irene is now too much of a threat to the area.

Nonetheless, Stephens said you can make any future claims go more smoothly with just a little preparation. First, take photos or videos of the rooms in your home, so you can keep track of your valuables.

"If you have pictures you can go through or videos you can turn back on, you can always go through and make your inventory just by looking at those things," Stephens said.

Mark Ousley with restoration company Full Steam Ahead said taking photos of damage after it happens can help too.

"The more photos you have, the more detailed it is, the better you are to proceed with that claim and have a positive outcome," Ousley said.

Before the storm gets here it is also good to gather important documents that cannot be replaced like birth certificates or social security cards. It helps to have insurance policy documents, but if not having a copy should not be a problem because companies should have policies on file.

"You have to determine what's important for you that's irreplaceable, that you can't put a dollar figure on," Stephens said. "Maybe that's the type of thing you take."

If property is damaged, both men agree it is important to prevent further damage if possible, even before making a claim.

"It's not necessary for the adjuster to be there to walk you through the process," Ousley said of preventative steps like putting a tarp over a leaking roof. "You can go ahead and do those things prior to the adjuster arriving."

Stephens said most insurance deductibles increase if damage comes from a named tropical system. So preventing more damage can keep out-of-pocket repair costs lower as well.

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