MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Although Hurricane Irene spared the Grand Strand major damage, many people along the east coast are now learning if their insurance covers all of the damage they have seen from Irene.
Insurance is something many people do not think about until they need it, and because of Irene now many people are learning insurance claims may not work the way they expect. Not only do homeowners and renters need to be sure they have the right coverage, it helps to be ready for a complicated process.
"I think that's an understatement," said Ed Edelen. "It's a lot more complicated."
He should know. His insurance ordeal lasted more than nine months after Hurricane Hugo wiped out his oceanfront home in Myrtle Beach. When it comes to large-scale natural disasters he says it is important to keep two things in mind. First, insurance company catastrophe teams are sent in, so you will not deal much with a local agent.
"They are considered doing a good job if they reduce the claim to the minimum possible," Edelen explained.
Also, if you can, get some help with a major claim from a builder and/or a lawyer he said.
"They wanted [to know] how many two-by-fours, how many squares in the roof, how many square yards of carpet, floor covering, wood flooring," he said about having to itemize his insurance claim.
Wade Davis with State Farm in Myrtle Beach admits claims can get complicated especially with big disasters. However, homeowners can at least check now to be sure their homeowners insurance covers what they think. The closer someone lives to the ocean the more likely a homeowner is to need extra coverage for wind damage.
"You might have to buy your wind and hail separately through the South Carolina wind and hail pool," Davis explained. "Then you would have your regular homeowners policy, which covers everything basically besides wind and hail."
Flood insurance is always separate. So if flooding causes damage a homeowner may have to make different claims based on which damage is covered by which policy.
"Well at that point you've got a real battle," Edelen said. "Did the flood do it or did the wind do it?"
Also, homeowners should realize insurance will not pay to remove a tree that falls unless that tree causes damage. If the home is damaged the claim can be made to homeowner's insurance. If damage is to the car, the claim is made to car insurance.
Davis says it is wise to decide if paying more for insurance now will allow for more coverage reimbursement later.
"The best thing to do is to check with your agent to be sure you're adequately covered," Davis said.
People who have renters insurance should know their policies usually cover wind damage with everything else, but like other policies, flood insurance is usually separate.
Insurance changes can be made right now. However, if there is an immediate threat from a tropical system changes in coverage are not allowed.