"We are so grateful that a consumer-focused organization like UP – completely independent of the insurance industry – is there to help families and individuals, homeowners and renters alike, navigate the confusing claims process after a disaster, and to help them before a crisis as well."
by United Policyholders
Days after the August, 2014 earthquake in Napa County, United Policyholders was at the temporary relief center and the local assistance center giving information and recovery support to distraught residents who'd come for help. Our Roadmap to Recovery tools, publications and services are available to all impacted home, business owners and renters as well as the case managers and aid workers assisting in the recovery effort.
UP has guided thousands of California residents on earthquake damage, repair methods, insurance negotiations and settlements since the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. Our tools, tips and resources focus on:
- Making sure structures have been thoroughly inspected by qualified, independent professionals
- Identifying structural and cosmetic damage from the earthquake versus pre-existing damage
- Understanding the terms and conditions of insurance policies in relation to earthquake damage
- The importance of obtaining accurate and complete estimates to repair all damage caused or exacerbated by the earthquake
We invite all California residents impacted by the Napa Earthquake use our Roadmap to Recovery™ tools, information and services. We urge all affected residents of Napa and Solano county to register with FEMA. Your deductible can be considered and "uninsured" portion of your loss. Read our recent blog post for more information.
- Earthquakes can cause obvious, visible damage that anyone can see, but also can cause damage hidden behind walls and in attics, basements and crawlspaces and on roofs. So just because you don't see damage doesn't mean your property hasn't sustained damage.
- Regardless of whether you have earthquake insurance or not, focus on starting a recovery journal and making sure your property gets thoroughly inspected by one or more experienced local contractors or structural engineers. Here is an inspection checklist.
- Almost all home insurance policies exclude earthquake damage, so unless you have a separate policy or rider that covers quakes, or unless your home was damaged or destroyed by a fire following the quake, it may not make sense to even file a claim. If your home was damaged by a fire following the earthquake, you can and should submit a claim under your home insurance.
- If you have earthquake insurance, check your deductible. The way it works is you can put in a claim regardless of the amount and severity of the damage, but only the portion above your deductible will be covered. If the cost of fixing the damage is less than your deductible, you won't recover any insurance benefits for repairs. For example - if you have a 10% deductible and $400,000 in dwelling coverage, your deductible amount is $40,000. If a reputable expert tells you it will cost $30k to fix your home - you're on your own paying for repairs. If the cost to repair your home is $100,000, you'll recover $60,000 toward repairs. In that second scenario - you won't need to spend $40k to get the $60k - but you will only recover $60k and will need to cover the $40k on your own.
- Not all benefits under earthquake policies are subject to a deductible. Under most policies, if your home is uninhabitable for a period of time - you can collect loss of use benefits without application of a deductible.
If both the ground and your nerves are shaken and you now want to buy earthquake insurance, use UP's earthquake insurance shopping tools.
First steps to getting oriented and organized:
If your home has been damaged or destroyed, below is a checklist to help keep you on track during this stressful time.
- Take care of your family’s needs first.
- Local, reasonably equivalent housing is a priority – talk to your insurance company about the housing expense allowance.
- Keep a diary of who you talked to, the number you called, date and time, what was said. Keep all of your paperwork organized and together.
- Take photos of your property before any cleanup or debris removal.
- Get a complete and current copy of your insurance policy.
- Ask for a cash advance for Additional Living Expenses (ALE).
- Do not rush into signing contracts and avoid making major financial decisions in the first few weeks.
- Check references carefully before hiring any vendor or professional
If your home has been damaged or destroyed, request a Roadmap to Recovery Toolkit by emailing your current mailing address to email@example.com. The toolkit contains a handbook, organizer diary and home inventory flash drive tool.
Here are some items to get you started putting one foot in front of the other on the road to recovery:
- An open letter from one disaster survivor to another
- Top Ten Insurance Claim Tips
- Sample Letter Requesting Copy of Policy
- Simplified Guide to Your Declarations Page
- ALE/Loss of Use: What expenses can you claim on your homeowner's policy?
- Sample Letter Requesting Information About Insurance Benefits for Temporary Living Expenses ("ALE" or "Loss of Use")
Speak UP: Tips for Communicating with your Insurance Company
Earthquake Insurance Information:
Repairs and Rebuilding (Your Home)
- Debris Removal
- Insurance Recovery Tips for the Dwelling Part of Your Claim
- The Scoop on "Scope of Loss"
- Tips for Reviewing Adjusters' and Contractors' Estimates
- Rebuilding 101: A Guide to the Reconstruction Process
- Xactimate Demystified
Questions to Ask a Repair/Rebuild Contractor
Contents/Personal Property (Your Stuff)
- Home Contents Claim Tips
- Sample Letter Requesting Contents Itemization Waiver
- Sample Letter Asking for a Personal Property Claim Settlement
- Sample Inventory/Personal Property Claim Worksheets (Excel doc)
- Underinsurance 101
- State Specific Help
- Tax Information
- Hiring Professional Help
- Find Professional Help in California
Disaster Survivor Support Network: Confidential emotional support, insurance and rebuilding tips from previous catastrophic loss victims/survivors through the United Policyholders Disaster Survivor Support Network ("DSSN") For a list of and contact info for available DSSN recovery mentors, please email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org and put "DSSN" in the subject line.
Expert Answers to Your Questions: The ”Ask an Expert” tool is an easy and safe way to ask direct questions to attorneys, claims professionals and previous disaster survivors who serve as UP volunteers and get the answers you need. The expert doesn’t see your contact info, but you can contact them if you want to follow up on their answer. To use the forum, please visit www.uphelp.org/Ask-an-Expert.
The Disaster Recovery Handbook/Household Inventory Guide: Since 2006 "The Disaster Recovery Handbook and Household Inventory Guide" has been a trusted book that's led thousands of people through the process of overcoming obstacles to repairing and rebuilding after a major loss. The book is written in plain language by disaster survivors fordisaster survivors with tips and expert advice from legal, insurance and personal finance professionals.
The Roadmap to Recovery Organizer Kit: includes the essential tools for staying organized and recovering financially from serious property damage or loss. Each kit contains a diary/notebook, essential tips and guidance, business card holders, a pouch for receipts and a messenger bag.
- Home Inventory Flashdrives: Most disaster survivors must prepare an itemized and detailed inventory list of every single item they lost in order to recover insurance monies and/or claim tax losses. Creating this inventory is one of the most challenging and time-consuming tasks survivors must complete on the road to recovery. To ease this burden, UP created a home inventory flash drive that's pre-loaded with helpful content and is easy to use.
Related Information and News:
About The Blogger
United Policyholders is a non-profit organization that serves as a voice and an information resource for insurance consumers in all 50 States.