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Document losses to ease insurance claims
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Getting a settlement from an insurance company in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, expected to be the most costly disaster in U.S. history, is a necessary early step in rebuilding lives.
Mississippi State University experts are urging those with claims to make safety and documentation top priorities when returning home and cleaning up after the disaster.
Bobbie Shaffett, associate professor of human sciences with MSU's Extension Service, urged residents to return to their homes, or what's left of them, after the area is determined to be safe. Make temporary repairs to prevent further loss, list all damages and take photos as documentation.
"Keep all your receipts, including repairs, food, lodging and other expenses associated with the loss. Give these and the list of damages to the insurance adjuster," Shaffett said.
The insurance agent is the go-between for the individual making the claim and the company, and should be kept informed.
"Typically, an adjuster will take a preliminary list of the problems you have noticed and you will have a reasonable period of time to respond with other things you may have found," Shaffett said.
Even with additional adjusters brought to an area, it could takes time for insurance companies to respond to all claims due to the widespread, extensive damage caused by this major hurricane.
"Before you throw it out, write it down. Take a detailed inventory of things damaged and things thrown out for the purpose of insurance claims and tax deductions," Shaffett said.
The Better Business Bureau offered a few more tips for handling insured losses.
"Immediately call your insurance agent to report your claim. The agent will prepare a Notice of Loss form and an adjuster will be assigned to assist you," their Web site states. "Separate the damaged from the undamaged property, and put it in the best possible order for the adjuster's examination."
After the inventory, dispose of damaged property that presents a health hazard or that hampers clean-up operations. Good records speed up claims, so offer as evidence anything such as manufacturer's names, dates and places of purchases, and receipts, proofs of purchase, especially for major appliances.