by Erin Silver
If you live in a hurricane-prone zone, you’ll want to make sure you have insurance and that your policies are up to date. After all, you likely have property, such as a home or business that you want to protect. The Royal Gazette consulted with leading Bermuda home insurer BF&M for some of their best insurance-related tips.
KNOW YOUR POLICIES
It’s important to read your policy to understand your coverage, exclusions and limits, and to talk to your insurance company to address any questions. This way you know what’s covered if your property is damaged after a hurricane.
“Deductible” is a term often heard after a hurricane at claim time. The hurricane deductible (also called “excess”), is the first amount of the storm-related loss or damage that policy owners are financially responsible for before your insurance provider will pay the rest of your claim. A lower deductible means you pay less upfront when you make a claim; a higher deductible may lower your premiums. When considering a higher deductible it’s important to factor in the mostly likely reoccurring financial obligations that arise during hurricane season. A higher deductible may place you in a period of financial distress.
Many people are not aware of all the benefits existing under their home insurance. Insurance companies often get asked whether home insurance covers flood damage; BF&M insurance, for instance, covers damage to buildings and contents from floods. If you have contents insurance, contamination by salt in your home’s tank associated with a storm is covered. Damage to underground pipes and cables servicing the home is covered, as well as damage to outbuildings, cesspits, walls, gates, fences, footpaths and driveways. Coverage against loss of rent or the cost of alternative accommodation if a property is deemed uninhabitable can also be included in the policy.
UPDATE YOUR POLICIES
If you’ve purchased, inherited, got new furniture or have completed any renovations, you’ll need to update the sum insured of your home and contents insurance. Your “sum insured” means the estimate of the cost to replace or rebuild. You don’t want to end up being underinsured, which means that you won’t be covered for the actual reconstruction/replacement value of property damaged in a storm, potentially leaving you having to cover costs out of pocket.
Since costs rise over time, your original sum insured may need to be adjusted, or your claims payment might not fully cover the actual cost to rebuild or replace your damaged property. Now is a good time to call your insurance provider for a quote or advice on how to calculate the value of your property and figure out how much insurance you should buy to protect you from financial losses.
ASSESS THE DAMAGE
As soon as it’s safe, take a look around your property. When you’ve been cleared to go inside, take note of any damages. Take pictures to document the damage, then try to protect your property as best you can to avoid further damage (with tarps, for example, to ward off water damage). Call your insurance provider’s claims department to discuss next steps. You can also go on their website to file a claim. Their website will likely contain all the information you need to get the process started.