NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) wants consumers affected by the storms that swept across the Volunteer State on April 5 to recover as quickly as possible. Here’s a checklist of tips and information to keep in mind when filing an insurance claim or selecting a contractor.
File your claim as soon as possible. Call your insurance company or agent with your policy number and other relevant information. Your policy may require that you make the notification within a certain time frame.
Be sure you cooperate fully with the insurance company. Ask what documents, forms and data you will need to file a claim. Keep a diary of all conversations with insurance companies, creditors or relief agencies.
Be certain to give your insurance company all the information they need. Incorrect or incomplete information will only cause a delay in processing your claim.
If your home is damaged to the extent that you can’t live there, ask your insurance company if you have coverage for additional living expenses.
Take photographs/video of the damage.
Make the repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property (cover broken windows, leaking roofs and damaged walls). Don’t have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs. Be prepared to provide the claims adjuster with records of any improvements you made prior to the damage.
Maintain any damaged personal property for the adjuster to inspect.
Ask the adjuster for an itemized explanation of the claim settlement offer.
Save all receipts, including those from the temporary repairs covered by your insurance policy.
Be wary of contractors who demand upfront payment before work is initiated or payment in full before work is completed.
If the contractor needs payment to buy supplies, go with the contractor and pay the supplier directly.
Get more than one bid. Ask for at least three references. Ask for proof of necessary licenses, building permits, insurance, and bonding. Use TDCI’s One-Stop Licensing App to verify licenses. Record the license plate number and driver’s license number of the contractor.
If you can’t cover all of your expenses, contact your creditors to negotiate a payment plan.
If there is a disagreement about a claim, ask the company for the specific language in the policy in question and determine why you and the company interpret your policy if the first offer made by an insurance company does not meet your expectations, be prepared to negotiate to get a fair settlement.
If you believe you have been treated unfairly in getting a claim paid, contact TDCI to file a complaint.
To protect yourself, only hire licensed contractors. Visit verify.tn.gov to ensure that a contractor is properly licensed to work in the State of Tennessee. Different types of work or work with a higher cost may require different licensure. (See the list below for a summary of the Contractors licensing laws.)
Before you hire a contractor:
Make sure the contractor is properly licensed. Write down the license number and verify that it is legitimate by visiting http://verify.tn.gov.
Get several bids. It’s best to get at least three bids and check references.
Get a written contract that includes the company’s name, address, and telephone number. The contract should also include an anticipated start and completion date.
Never pay more than one-third down and do not let the payments get ahead of the work.
Make sure the contractor is insured to cover workers’ compensation, damage and general liability insurance.
When hiring a contractor, avoid:
A person going door-to-door selling their services.
A person who offers services for a short time only, which makes consumers feel rushed and unable to research the contractor.
Unmarked trucks or vans, or a refusal or reluctance to set out complete and specific contract terms in writing.
Being pressured to pay for more than half of the cost upfront.
To file a complaint about a contractor with the Board for Licensing Contractors, visit http://tn.gov/commerce/article/cont-file-a-complaint or call 800-544-7693.
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