How to ensure you're insured for Hurricane Matthew damage

How to ensure you're insured for Hurricane Matthew damage

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Many homeowners along the Grand Strand and Pee Dee are trying to clean up what Hurricane Matthew left behind.

In some cases, people have yet to clean up their homes as the threat of flooding continues to rise. Insurance agents across the area are busy helping clients recover from the storm, but they offered advice to help homeowners.

Steven Franks, regional director for AAA Insurance and Travel, said their office has been busy handling claims.

"It's been a hectic week, to say the least," he said. "Our agents, our adjusters are on the ground. We're here to help. It's been hectic, but that's why we're here."

Franks added if a homeowner has experienced damage due to Hurricane Matthew, they should first consult their policy or their agent.

"They need to look and see what they actually have on their coverage," he said. "I know that a lot of that is in insurance lingo, but that's what your agent is there for."

Franks said during this time, homeowners should check their deductible to find out what part they will be responsible for.

"Here on the coast, what we run into a lot is we either have separate wind and hail or hurricane deductibles, and that is some of the language that you will see on the policy," Franks said.

Wind-related damage to a house, its roof, its contents and other insured structures on the property is covered under standard homeowner's insurance policies. Wind-driven rain that causes an opening in the roof or wall and enters through this opening is also covered.

Homeowner's policies may include additional living expenses in the event a home is damaged by a covered peril. This would pay for reasonable expenses incurred by living elsewhere while the home is being fixed or rebuilt.

Physical damage to a car caused by heavy wind, flooding or fallen tree limbs is covered under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto policy.

If a tree falls on a house, the homeowner's insurance will cover removal of the tree and home repairs due to damage.

If an owner's tree falls on their neighbor's house, that individual's homeowner policy would provide insurance coverage. The same holds true if the roles were reversed.

However, if a tree falls in a person's yard but does't hit anything, the homeowner would pay for its removal in most cases.

Additionally, if a tree on a person's property is weak, damaged, or decayed, but the homeowner did nothing about it and it crashes down, the homeowner could be held liable for damages.

Franks said individuals should take pictures and videos of all the damage to show the insurance company.

Water that seeps into a home from the ground up is considered flooding and would be covered by flood insurance, which is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program and a few private insurers.

Flood insurance is available to both homeowners and renters. Damage is not covered by standard homeowners or renters insurance policies.

Homeowner policies also include additional living expenses; in the event a home is severely damaged by an insured disaster, this would pay for reasonable expenses incurred by living elsewhere while the home is being fixed or rebuilt.

"If you use the example of your house, if Hurricane Matthew were to come through and blow the roof off your house - let's say the rain is coming in after that damage - or a tree falls through your house and the rain is coming in because of that, that would be covered under your homeowner's policy," Franks said.

Franks added if a home has experience damage, the homeowner should not waste a lot of time getting estimates. Many companies are being slammed right now, so a person may have to wait days or even weeks to get an estimate. He said get the repairs done as quickly as possible to avoid further damage.

"Go ahead and get it fixed," Franks said. "Get the tree removed if that's the case, but at the same time get a fair price. Go with a reputable company, a company that has been in business in the area for a while and has a good name. Let's make sure the home is safe so you can get back in and live again."

Franks said property owners that may have lost food in their refrigerator or freezer really need to check with their agent to find out if that is covered by their policy.

"It really depends on the language of the policy," he said. "Some companies, it depends on who they are insured with. It may cover things like that. There are a lot of companies that have endorsements that a customer can purchase to cover things like that."

Franks said many people are filing claims for other structures on their property.

"We've got folks in places like Pawleys Island, Murrells Inlet, Cherry Grove, they lost docks and other structures," he said. "People have sheds, you should have other structures in their homeowner's policy."

Franks says fences should also be covered under a policy.

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