Public Adjuster Tutwiler & Associates Urges Policyholders to Avoid Claim Problems Before The Storm as 2013 Hurricane Season Begins

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On the heels of a damaging storm season and the promise of a more active 2013 hurricane season, public adjuster Rick Tutwiler urges property insurance policyholders to be more diligent in storm preparation and policy review. He offers property owners additional disaster planning tips to help avoid claim problems should storm damage occur.

Florida Public Adjuster

Rick Tutwiler Property Insurance Claims Public Adjuster

The saddest thing we typically see after a disaster is how many people expected to be covered but had no coverage

The 2013 hurricane season has officially started on the heels of a busy and damaging 2012 season that caused widespread wind, water and flood damage. Tropical Storm Debby and Hurricane Isaac flooded many areas in Florida and along the Gulf Coast. Super Storm Sandy caused massive devastation and 100 year flooding and coastal wind damage hitting the New York, Long Island and New Jersey shores especially hard. Thousands of insurance claims continue to remain unresolved.

Dr. William Grey and his team of experts from Colorado State University are predicting an above average 2013 hurricane season with 18 named storms and a 72% chance that one will make landfall somewhere along the eastern seaboard. At last month’s 2013 National Hurricane Conference, Dr. Grey predicted that 2013 will bring a series of hurricanes more severe than 2012 and told an audience that the United States had not yet seen the “Big One”.

“This is a scary proposition given the repair work that continues from previous storm damage,” says Rick Tutwiler whose Florida based public insurance claims adjusting firm, Tutwiler & Associates has been assisting Superstorm Sandy policyholders with their insurance claims and has worked all major storms in Florida and on the Gulf Coast. “Policyholders need to go beyond the standard storm preparation checklist, states Tutwiler. They need to go deeper and understand how their insurance policy will operate when a disaster occurs,” he adds.

Beyond the standard preparation checklist, Tutwiler is urging commercial and residential policyholders to take the following steps in order to protect their insurance claims and avoid potential settlement problems in what he likes to call “the disaster after the disaster.”

1. Purchase Flood Insurance - Most hurricane damage comes from flooding or storm surge. The maximum amount allowed under the Standard Flood Insurance Program is $250,000 for the dwelling structure and $100,000 for contents and personal property. If your home or belongings are worth more, talk to your agent about purchasing Excess Flood Insurance through the private market. You can purchase any amount you need and also obtain coverage for specialty items that may otherwise not be covered under the Federal Government’s Standard Flood Insurance Policy.

2. Obtain a windstorm policy and understand your deductible. - Most property policies automatically include a windstorm deductible, which can vary from 2-5%. Even though these percentage deductibles may seem small, they can add up very quickly and put a serious strain on financial recovery. One way to mitigate such issues for property owners is to purchase a “buy-back deductible,” which is supplemental coverage that allows policyholders to forfeit paying a deductible by opting to pay an additional premium. Imagine having to pay 1 million dollars out of pocket before receiving a dollar from your insurance company!

3. Understand your insurance policy coverage’s. - Is it an Actual Cash Value (ACV) policy or a Replacement Cost Value (RCV) policy? If it’s an ACV Policy, the insurance company will withhold the depreciation money until you provide receipts or proof that repair work was actually completed. This places the burden on the policyholder to finance their own repairs. For Condominium Associations or Homeowners Associations the mandatory repair or mitigation money typically comes from assessing each unit owner for their share in repairing the building. A difficult and unpleasant task at best.

4. Ask about Law and Ordinance Coverage - Law and Ordinance coverage (sometimes referred to as Building Code Coverage) allows a policyholder to pay for increased repair costs when building codes require the repair or replacement of an undamaged part of a building in order to bring it up to current code requirements. This has been a major issue with Superstorm Sandy claims. Policyholders can purchase 25-50% of Coverage A for Law & Ordinance Coverage. One of the most widely unrecognized provisions of this coverage is that a policyholder has to incur the added cost of repair before the carrier will pay.

5. Consider Sewage-Back Up Coverage - Prior to Super Storm Sandy making landfall, an unprecedented amount of sewage backed-up into many homes and commercial properties, even those that were not flooded. The problem for many was that sewer back-up coverage was very limited; typically $5,000.00 if covered at all. As many soon found out, this was woefully inadequate. but for those who paid the additional premium the results were not good, they were great! Flood coverage is extremely limited in basements and does not cover furniture or basement finish damages. However, if the basement sustains damage resulting from sewer back-up, the carrier will pay for all personal property items located on the floor including the floor coverings and other basement finishes directly affected by the sewage. “In some cases this was in excess of $100,000,” according to Tutwiler.

6. Know your insurance company - Like any business or industry, there are good and a few bad players. Seeking the right kind of property insurance coverage is only part of the first step. Policyholders should also diligently research their current insurance company to assess their claims performance. This type of information can typically be obtained from State Insurance Departments. Agents are also a good source, since they hear the complaints from unhappy policyholders.

Based on his latest Superstorm Sandy experience, Tutwiler says, “Homeowners who took the time to obtain the proper coverage needed to completely rebuild, have either recovered or are on their way, according to Tutwiler. Those who did not may be caught up in the legal court system for years to come because they have to dispute their claim settlement. The saddest thing we typically see after a disaster is how many people expected to be covered but had no coverage, states Tutwiler. Make sure that doesn’t happen to you by spending a little quality time understanding your policy and reviewing it with your agent,” he says.

About Tutwiler & Associates: Established in 1984, Tutwiler & Associates is a highly regarded, licensed public adjusting firm that represents commercial and residential property insurance policyholders in all property insurance damage claims including fire & smoke, water, flood, sinkhole, wind, hurricane, roof damage, collapse, business interruption, lightning, mold, explosion, theft & vandalism. Tutwiler also offers appraisal, umpire and pre-loss inspection services. Our experienced public adjusters work exclusively for the policyholder to remove the stress of dealing with the insurance company and properly present your insurance damage claim to obtain the payment you deserve. Our public adjusters are known for their expertise, attention to detail, client service and results as highlighted in the client Success Stories and Testimonials on our website. http://www.publicadjuster.com

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Charles R. "Dick" Tutwiler
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