I learned two interesting things this past weekend. The first is that lightning can strike at any time and it can hit close to home. The second that you need to make sure your insurance policies are up to date and that you have the right insurance carrier to help you out.
Do you have insurance for Lightning Strikes. Would you be prepared if you had a total loss?
Early Saturday morning, we were awakened by a loud storm passing by. The lightning was fierce. At about 1:30 one strike felt like it hit near our home. I got out of bed and wandered around the home and looked out the windows to see if our home or any neighboring trees or properties had been hit. Lightning had not struck our immediate vicinity but had hit the house of a friend a couple of blocks away. The lightning missed the tall trees surrounding the home and hit the roof instead.
Luckily they were not home, but the lightning ignited the roof of the home and quickly spread throughout the home. By the time the fire department arrived at the home, the home was fully engulfed in flames. Not much was left of the home. The picture above is the actual picture of what’s left of the home.
In talking to my father, he recalled how all homes where he grew up had lighting rods. In our area, there is no requirement for lightning rods to be installed in old or new homes. Well, our friends found out the hard way what happens when lightning strikes a home.
While in hindsight, the following items might have helped minimize the loss, including a home sprinkler system, a monitored fire alarm system and, perhaps, a lightning rod, there are a couple of things a homeowner can do to help prepare for a possible disaster and assist in the recovery.
The first thing that you should have available at all times is a copy of your insurance policies. If you have had your insurance policy for some time, make sure that your homeowner’s insurance policy contains the declaration page along with the policy and all endorsements. You might like to know that insurance carriers frequently update and change their insurance policies and will add endorsements to your policy. However, these endorsements may come to you after you have received the policy and it will be up to you to have the policy and all endorsements stored in one place.
Many insurance carriers will give you online access to your policy and forms, but if your policy is several years old, you may have to request that the insurance carrier mail or email to you the current version of your insurance policy along with its endorsements.
A helpful list would be for you to have an inventory of everything you own. You can create a list of all of your worldly possessions and make sure you have it in a safe place. But, you can also to around your home taking pictures of everything you own.
If you decide to use a camera, don’t forget to open up cabinets, closets, storage bins and boxes to take pictures of those items as well. At least if you’ve taken pictures of everything, you will have an easier time remembering all of the things you owned and can prove that you had four sets of china along with a one hundred pairs of shoes or a jean collection.
If you’ve taken those pictures or have an inventory, make sure that the information is kept in a safe place you can retrieve if there is a disaster. It won’t do you too much good to put that back up disk or drive in your basement if you end up with a flood there. You may wish to keep multiple copies of your files in different locations that you may be able to access readily in the future.
If you have this information, you can at least talk to your insurance adjuster about all of items you lost in your home and can show evidence that you had those items there.
When you deal with insurance companies, make sure you’re working with a reputable insurance carrier with a good reputation in dealing with their customers after a disaster. If you pick the cheapest carrier, you may pay less in premiums but your first disaster may be compounded by a second when they fight you for what you might be entitled.
Once you choose an insurance carrier, make sure you have adequate coverage for your home and possessions. If you think it would cost you $300,000 to rebuild your home from scratch, don’t buy $250,000 in coverage to save some money. Frequently, homeowner’s underestimate the amount it will cost to rebuild a home and if it costs more than the amount you have covered under your policy you may be out of luck.Some insurance agents will try to convince their customers that the insurance company’s policy will cover them for up to 125% of the policy amount. However, if you suffer a total loss, you may need that 25% additional coverage for other unexpected costs. And, if you are a collector of special items, make sure your insurance carrier knows that you collect antiques or other items that may have a high value and may not be covered under some policies.
If you have covered your home for the amount that it would take to rebuild it, make sure you keep up that amount from time to time, if the amount has not gone up in years, you may want to reevaluate whether you should increase the amount of coverage for your home.
Once you have covered the home, make sure the things you own inside of it are covered as well. If you have a total loss, do you have enough coverage under the policy to cover you for the televisions, games, jewelry, clothing, bedding, furniture and other items that you own? Make sure you have enough of this kind of coverage and that your policy will cover your expenses while you have to live somewhere else for up to two years.
These steps won’t eliminate the tears shed from the loss, but may minimize some of the hard work that you will have to go through trying to reconstruct your life after a big loss.
Do you have a story about an insurance loss you’ve had and the problems you went through with your insurance carrier? If you did, please leave a comment about what you went through with your insurance company and how you managed and solved it.