After the storm: Filing storm damage insurance claims

September 22, 2023

Tips for everything after the storm to help you file storm damage claims and begin to rebuild

A fallen tree damaging a home after a storm

Thunderstorms in Texas can bring can bring all sorts of dangerous, damaging events from flooding and hail to damaging winds and even tornadoes. In previous blogs, we've talked all about severe weather threats and how to prepare for them, but what happens after the storm? 

There are important steps to take in the immediate moments following a severe weather event to ensure you and your family are safe, secure, and able to repair and rebuild. In this blog, we'll cover everything you need to know. Read on! 

Safety first

As you can imagine, the steps you take following a severe weather event depend greatly on the type and severity of that event. Although something like hail can certainly be damaging, the damage to your home from a hailstorm will not likely pose a threat to your safety. On the other hand, the aftermath of severe windstorms or tornadoes that can remove large portions of your home or destroy it entirely absolutely can. 

No matter what the extent of damage is to your home, it's important to put you and your family's safety at the top of your priority list. Documenting damage is important, but not at the expense of your safety. With that in mind, make sure to follow these safety steps after the storm:

  • Make sure everyone is accounted for and injury-free. Provide any necessary first aid and contact emergency services if needed.
  • Survey in and around your home for potential dangers, such as downed power lines, broken gas lines, leaking water lines, broken glass, nails, and so on. Cut off damaged utilities or evacuate if possible.
  • Monitor the weather to ensure the severe weather threat has passed.
  • If present, follow instructions from civil authorities like police, EMS, or firefighters.
  • If you are asked to evacuate, make your way to a safe place and remain there until authorities have cleared the area for return.

Filing storm damage insurance claims after the storm

Once you're sure that the danger is passed, it's important to follow these steps.

Contact your insurance provider. Getting the claims process started as quickly as possible is important after a storm has damaged your home. To begin the process, contact your insurance provider via phone, app, or website right away. Although the process may vary slightly from provider to provider, you'll typically need to have some basic information on hand, such as:

  • Your policy number
  • Date and time of loss
  • Address of loss
  • Description of loss
  • Current contact information
They'll also give you a reference number for the claim - make sure to hang on to this as it will make things much easier. At this point, your provider will arrange for and insurance adjuster to reach out and schedule an appointment to inspect the loss and provide an estimate for repairs. In many cases, the inspection can happen relatively quickly, but in situations where a large number of people in a community have been impacted by a storm, it can take longer. 

Make temporary repairs. Depending on the nature of the damage, this may or may not be your first priority. For example, if you have a broken window that could potentially lead to further rain damage, you'll want to take steps to cover it with a tarp or plastic sheet as soon as possible. However, do not attempt to make any permanent repairs until the adjuster has had a chance to inspect the loss. Make sure that you hold on to any receipts you get from the repair process, such as purchasing materials from the hardware store. 

Document the damage. Once it is safe to do so, it's essential to try and document any damages as thoroughly as possible with photos and/or videos. If repairs are needed, try to document the damage carefully beforehand so that you can show it to the adjuster. Similarly, don't throw out damaged belongings or remove debris unless it poses a risk to your safety. If you have to do so, again - make sure you thoroughly document everything beforehand. 

Home inventory list. If the storm caused damage to personal property within your home, it will be important to provide an accurate list to your insurance provider. Depending on the extent of the damages, it may be difficult to recall each individual item that might have been damaged or gone missing. That's why it is highly recommended that you keep and maintain a current home inventory checklist as part of your severe weather preparation plan. Should your home suffer significant losses, you can go down this list to ensure that damaged or missing items are properly covered. You can download Germania's Home Inventory Checklist here!

Find shelter: Additional Living Expenses (ALE)

If your home is damaged to the point where it is no longer safe to stay, or if you are asked to evacuate, your homeowners insurance policy will likely provide reimbursements for additional living expenses (ALE). These can include food, temporary housing, animal boarding, and clothing costs that are above normal living expenses. 

ALE is not designed to pay for costs that you would incur every day, but only costs that go over your everyday expenses due to some covered loss. For example, if you have to pay for a hotel, clothes, laundry, and extra food because you are temporarily displaced from your home, this is usually covered. As another example, if you normally had to spend $50 a week in gas to drive to work, but you have to temporarily spend $100, the additional $50 may be covered. 

Make sure to save receipts to provide to your insurance provider to review for potential reimbursement.

Severe weather planning and preparedness

Although the steps above will help you begin the recovery process after a storm, there are steps you can take beforehand to help you in the event severe weather does strike. 

Education, awareness, and preparedness. The weather in Texas can be as unpredictable as it is dangerous sometimes. Whether you're a longtime resident or a new arrival, learning more about our weather can make a huge difference. Read up on Texas weather and severe weather preparedness with resources like severe weather blog series:

Additionally, read up on creating an emergency disaster kit and how to prepare for power outages (a frequent side effect of severe weather).

Keep and update your home inventory. As previously mentioned, a home inventory checklist is simply a document you use to keep track of the belongings within your home. This includes make, model, and price if possible. It's always helpful to have receipts, too. Keeping an up-to-date home inventory can make filing a claim far easier after a severe damaging storm. 

Check your coverage limits. In addition to keeping up with a home inventory, it's always good to check your insurance coverages with your agent. As the cost of building materials and labor increases with time, so does the amount of insurance coverage you require to repair or rebuild it. This is especially true if you've made an recent renovations or additions to your home. 

Review your policy details. Talk to your agent to ensure you understand exactly how your policy covers your home and personal belongings. Make sure you understand if it is actual cash value or replacement cost. Review the sublimits for your personal property. 

Lastly, double check your ALE provisions as amounts vary between providers. Make sure you understand what is and is not covered by the ALE provision. 

Whether a strong stormy gust put a limb through your window or a deluge of hail destroyed your roof, it's never easy to deal with the fallout from severe weather. Our homes provide a sense of safety and it can be disheartening to see it damaged. 

Fortunately, insurance can help repair that damage and by taking these steps after a storm, you'll be well on your way to making home feel like home again!

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by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Strategist at Germania Insurance.

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