Catastrophe Claims questions and answers
What is a Catastrophe?
A catastrophe is defined by the insurance industry as an event that causes insured property losses in excess of established monetary amounts and impacts a significant number of policyholders and insurers. It is important to note that although an event may not meet the criteria of an insurance catastrophe, it may indeed be "catastrophic" to an individual or group of individuals who are impacted by this event regardless of the amount of the total loss.
What are the Causes of a Catastrophe?
A catastrophe is usually caused by a natural event such as a hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake or wildfire. The event results in destruction or damage to insured property, including homes, businesses and their contents.
Where do Catastrophes Occur?
As catastrophes are usually natural events, it is impossible to predict specifically when and where they will occur. However, it can be predicted with certainty that each year in the United States there will be some type of catastrophe. There is no area of the country exempt from these events. However, there are areas that are more susceptible than others to specific catastrophic risks, including the East Coast for hurricanes, the Midwest for tornadoes and the West Coast for earthquakes.
What do Catastrophes cost?
Every year U.S. property & casualty insurers pay billions of dollars to homeowners and businesses for insured property losses caused by multiple catastrope events. These payments do not include uninsured losses and do not represent the intangible costs due to death, injury and human suffering sustained as a direct result of a catastrophe event.
What can you do if your property is damaged as a result of a Catastrophe?
- Contact your agent or insurance company immediately. You will want your claim investigated as soon as possible so that repairs can begin promptly. In addition, your insurance coverage may provide for additional living expenses for which you may be able to receive advanced payments.
- Take precautions to secure and protect your property from further damage. Board up windows or otherwise secure your property from looters. Move contents to protected areas or otherwise protect contents from further damage from the weather. Costs associated with this is usually covered by your policy and is usually a policy condition.
What can you do to prevent becoming a victim following a Catastrophe?
Catastrophes usually bring out the best in most people, but also bring out the worst in others. If you have just been victimized by a natural catastrophe you don’t want to become a victim again. After each natural disaster, the area affected is inundated by outsiders, including insurance adjusters, emergency/medical personnel and assistance organizations. However, along with these support teams, unscrupulous building repair firms swoop down on the community. The following can help you from becoming a victim:
- Beware of high pressure sales people. Don’t be rushed into signing a contract. Instead take the time to obtain written estimates from more than one vendor.
- Know who you are dealing with. Obtain references, check with the Better Business Bureau, review licenses and ensure that the vendor is properly insured.
- Don’t make large down payments. Down payments are customary, however, unscrupulous vendors will disappear after receiving the down payment or performing limited work.
Public Adjusters may contact you offering to represent you in handling your claim. These are legitimate independent property insurance professionals who provide an important service, particularly where a claim is unusually complex. However, you may instead want to rely on the insurance company adjuster to handle your claim. This service is done without additional charge according to your policy provisions. If you choose to use a Public Adjuster, be sure to check his/her references, licenses and professional credentials. Also, be aware that you will have to share a percentage of your insurance settlement with the Public Adjuster for services performed.
How can you avoid becoming involved in insurance fraud following a Catastrophe?
Catastrophes provide an environment for crimes of opportunity. Your insurance policy provides for payment to you for damage to your property by covered perils. It does not provide for payments for fictitious or inflated damages. After a catastrophe, unscrupulous service vendors and/or company claims adjusters may approach you with schemes to put you in a better position than you were before the catastrophe event. These schemes usually involve kickbacks to the vendor or claims adjuster. Sometimes these schemes only involve the vendor and the claims adjuster without the direct knowledge of the insured.
Insurance fraud is a crime. If you are getting something for nothing, it is a good indicator that something may be wrong. Don’t get involved with these schemes. Instead contact your insurance company and ask to speak to the Special Investigation Unit and report the facts for their investigation.
Who should you contact if you believe you have been victimized by building repair firms or you have knowledge of suspected insurance fraud?
- Report problems with building repair firms to the State of Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (860-566-3290).
- Report all suspected insurance fraud to your insurance company’s Special Investigation Unit (check your policy or billing information for phone numbers). You can also report insurance fraud to the Connecticut Insurance Department at:
Connecticut Insurance Department
PO Box 816
Hartford CT 06142-0816