With the Massachusetts Division of Insurance now estimating the initial property damage claims for last week’s tornado in Western and Central Massachusetts at possibly $90million, here are some further tips from the Office of the Attorney General, the Division of Insurance and other state agencies on how you as an agent can continue to help your clients who have been affected.
- Remind your clients that it is important to keep their identity safe. If a person has suffered significant home damage, they may have lost paperwork and or personal identification materials. Remind them it is important to monitor their credit and bank accounts and that under Massachusetts law they may be able to request a credit freeze or fraud alert.
- Offer to conduct a thorough review of your client’s homeowner insurance policy with them. The time you spend will be well spent in avoiding hard feelings later on if a client is denied a claim and blames you for failing to tell them about specific provisions in their policy.
- For example, explain that while most standard homeowner’s insurance policies cover damage from windstorms and tornados, they will likely have to pay an out-of-pocket deductible.
- Help navigate your client through the policy showing them where this deductible is located in the policy and how much it is.
- Develop and provide a cheat sheet for you clients on pertinent terms and definitions they should know when filing a claim.
- For example, the Attorney General provided the following definitions for consumers to understand terms typically used in a homeowner’s policy in Massachusetts.
Actual Cash Value: An actual cash value policy will cover the cost to replace an item or structure, minus depreciation.
Replacement Cost: Replacement cost policies cover the amount to repair or replace the damaged property using materials of like kind and quality without depreciation. However, these policies often have a monetary cap.
Guaranteed Replacement Cost: These policies cover the amount to repair or replace the damaged property, no matter what the cost. These sorts of policies are often expensive and most homes are not covered by them.
- Be sure to tell your clients that many homeowner’s policies cover fallen trees only if they damage a person’s home or block access to their driveway and that they should think carefully about which trees to remove as that many policies include a limit of $500 for the removal of trees from a property regardless of the number of fallen trees.
- Print out and either give or mail your clients a copy of The Division of Insurance’s Disaster Guide.
It might be a good idea to prepare a list of tips for clients who may have suffered automobile damage as a result of last week’s tornado.
- Like you did with the homeowner’s policy, invite your client to come in for a free review of his or her automobile insurance policy.
- Make sure you let your clients know that by filing a claim they run the risk of non-renewal of their policy or a rise in their premium whether or not the damage was their fault.
In addition, it might be worthwhile to post or to send a list of important contact numbers and sites for your clients to refer while filing claims and recovering in the aftermath.
Agency Checklists has provided a list of numbers and sites below for your agency to use in compiling its own list:
- The Division of Insurance’s Consumer Hotline which handle calls from homeowner’s seeking assistance: 617.521.7777
- The Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline 617.727.8400 or the online site to file a complaint.
- The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation’s website to verify a home improvement contractor.
- The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Storm Recovery website.
- Insurance Company Claim Numbers for Affected Homeowners .
- Information on how to request a Security Freeze or Fraud Alert for Suspected Identity Theft.
- The Division of Insurance’s Disaster Guide.