MI | September is National Preparedness Month, and the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) is providing tips to help Michiganders prepare for, and recover from, damage caused by a storm, fire, tornado, or other natural disasters.
“As another beautiful Michigan summer winds down, September is an ideal month to read your insurance policies, prepare or update inventories of your belongings, and make sure you understand your rights and responsibilities if your property is damaged,” said DIFS Director Anita Fox. “If you don’t prepare for weather damage before it occurs, including having a plan to pay for your insurance policy’s deductible, you could find yourself without access to the coverage you need if disaster strikes. If you do experience damage from a natural disaster, you should carefully review your insurance policies and work with your agent and insurer to see what coverage is available to you. DIFS is available to answer questions and assist consumers 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 877-999-6442.”
Before damage occurs, Michiganders should:
- Review insurance policies to understand their coverage and responsibilities. Flood damage is not covered by standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. There are certain insurance policies, including federal flood insurance, that homeowners would need to purchase to have coverage for flooding or water and sewer backup resulting from storms or other natural disasters. It is important to discuss these options with your insurance agent or your insurance company well before flooding or damage occurs.
- Prepare a detailed inventory of personal property with photographs or videos of each room in the home and a detailed list of other valuables and equipment that do not appear in the photos or videos. These materials should be stored in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box, with a relative, or electronically online.
- Make a list of important telephone numbers including family members, insurance agents, and insurance companies.
- Store copies of all insurance policy declaration pages and insurance cards in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box or online in the cloud, in case the originals are destroyed or lost.
- Develop a plan, such as a dedicated emergency fund, to pay for your insurance policy’s deductible. A deductible is a certain amount of money that must be paid out-of-pocket before the insurance company will pay a claim after a loss. For example, a homeowners policy may have a $1,000 deductible, meaning that you must pay $1,000 of a covered loss before the company will pay.
In addition to any specific actions required by their insurance company, Michiganders impacted by storm damage should:
- Contact their insurance company’s claims hotline and/or agent to report the claim. Have the policy number and other relevant information readily available. DIFS has prepared an Insurance Claims Tracking Sheet to make this process easier.
- If there is water damage to a home or other structure, consumers should tell their insurance company that there is water damage, and they are looking to determine what coverage is available. Consumers should not simply state that the damage is due to a flood as there may be additional causes for water damage, such as a sewer backup or failing sump pump, that may be covered under the policy.
- Take steps to protect the property and prevent further loss. Be sure to keep receipts for any purchases of supplies that are needed to protect the property.
- Document the loss. Take pictures or videos of the damaged items and do not get rid of the items until instructed to do so by the insurance company.
- If there is water damage to a vehicle, consumers should contact their auto insurance company. They may have coverage for the damage if they carried comprehensive coverage on their auto policy.
If problems arise after a claim is filed, DIFS encourages consumers to first attempt to resolve any disputes directly with their insurance company. If a resolution cannot be reached, DIFS will help try to resolve disputes. To learn more and file a complaint, visit Michigan.gov/DIFScomplaints. Anyone with questions or concerns about their insurance coverage is asked to call the DIFS toll-free hotline 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 877-999-6442. The mission of the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services is to ensure access to safe and secure insurance and financial services fundamental for the opportunity, security, and success of Michigan residents while fostering economic growth and sustainability in both industries. In addition, the Department provides consumer protection, outreach, and financial literacy and education services to Michigan residents. For more information, visit Michigan.gov/DIFS or follow the Department on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.