Anticipating the crush of insurance claims and questions, government and industry catastrophe teams have mobilized in the North Side of Minneapolis. Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said the department's consumer response teams can help policy-holders with the sometimes bewildering process of making claims for lost homes and cars. The teams can be reached at 651-296-2488, or toll free 800-657-3602.
Insurance companies are arriving in north Minneapolis to set up field centers, so homeowners, auto owners and renters can more easily file claims, said Mark Kulda of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota. It may be a few days, however, before adjusters can eyeball the damage for themselves, given the exclusion zone set up by the city.
Kulda suspects insurers won't be able to help many renters who lost their homes. Statewide, only about 10 percent of renters carry rental insurance, he said.
On Monday, the federation put out these tips for policy holders about getting the claims process started:
• CAREFULLY make temporary accommodations to prevent further damage but do not risk injury to yourself or others in doing so.
• Document with photos, videos and notes the extent of the damage and your losses.
• Contact your insurance agent or insurers’ claims hotline as soon as possible.
• Keep receipts of whatever you might spend on storm cleanup, temporary repair or emergency housing expenses. Many of these costs are covered under a standard homeowners’ policy.
Unfortunately, storms like this also bring out unscrupulous contractors who provide sometimes illegal incentives to entice homeowners to sign repair contracts.
The IFM’s Bob Johnson says homeowners should be wary of contractors who offer to pay their homeowners’ insurance deductible to get them to sign up for a deal.
“It is now illegal in Minnesota for contractors to offer certain incentives to homeowners in exchange for repair contracts,” said Johnson. “But most of these ‘storm chasers’ are from out of state and may not know about this important new consumer protection law.”
Storms like this also call attention to the need for homeowners’ to know what their policy covers and to have a comprehensive home inventory stored in a safe place. Having these tools will help policyholders maximize their claim. You can visit www.knowyourstuff.org for a free online home inventory tool.