What can FEMA do for you?
You have heard about the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and probably know that FEMA provides assistance to individuals after disasters hit, to cover damage that is not covered by their insurance policies. However, past that limited understanding, many people are unaware how FEMA works or what assistance FEMA can really provide them.
Homeowners, renters and business owners may be eligible to receive federal assistance, so long as their home or business is within a designated or officially declared “disaster area.” However, FEMA does not cover basic water damage that homeowner policies typically cover. Therefore, you may question whether you should apply for FEMA assistance if you have incurred damages to your home or business as a result of a hurricane or flood. The good news is that FEMA has a claims handbook available online that can help you determine whether you are eligible for FEMA assistance considering the type damage you incurred. (Link here.)
If you find that you are eligible for FEMA assistance, the next step is to apply to FEMA to receive that assistance. First, you should register with FEMA on their website, in order to make a claim. Next, you should contact your insurance company to report your claim and loss damage. After that, you should document the damage to your property inside your home or business and outside the property, using photographs, videos, and other forms of documentation. After you file report your claim, you will be assigned an insurance adjuster, who should contact you within 24-48 hours after submitting your claim. The adjuster will help collect information necessary for the claims process. The adjuster’s purpose is to help document your claim, and he or she cannot approve or deny coverage or directly inform you whether there are other forms of assistance available to you. After the adjuster has done their job, you should continue to collect documents relating to the damaged items—receipts, photographs, estimates for repairs, and your insurance declaration page—this will help speed up the claims process by having any and all documentation the insurance company may request at a later date.
After this, you will need to wait to obtain the insurance companies approval for costs and repairs. After you receive this, you will be required to complete a proof of loss before you can receive the approved payment. A proof of loss is your sworn statement about the amount of money you are claiming, which also includes supporting documentation. If you find additional damage after filing your proof of loss, you should contact your adjuster and file another proof of loss within the 60-days deadline. Once your proof of loss is signed and provided to the adjuster, he or she can start the claim payment process. Unfortunately, it may take a while to get paid on a FEMA claim, but you can request an advance or partial payment if needed. Be sure to ask your adjuster about this if you think it is necessary. FEMA provides a chart that is available online, and shows what the average claim payments have been each month of the previous year. This can help you ascertain what amount of compensation to expect if you are eligible for FEMA assistance.
What does FEMA cover?
While FEMA may not cover all damage to your home or business, FEMA might pay for: temporary housing; emergency home repairs; uninsured and underinsured personal property; and medical, dental and funeral expenses. FEMA does not generally cover additional living expenses or money to pay for temporary housing, but if you are unable to provide for your temporary housing, you may qualify for a specific FEMA program, FEMA Assistance to Individuals and Households. Additionally, renters can apply for a grant from FEMA to replace damaged personal property that is not insured by their primary insurance coverage, and may also be able to qualify for an SBA disaster loan. However, it is important to provide a signed proof of loss within 60 days—you should verify when this deadline is with your adjuster and insurance company. It is important to know that FEMA assistance does not usually cover ALL damage to your property. The remedy for this is to apply for an SBA disaster loan.
Handling insurance and FEMA claims can seem overwhelming, but there are many resources available online to help you gain a better understanding of what assistance may be available to you for the damage you have incurred. Online resources can also help you navigate the claims process, by breaking it down into easy to follow steps. If you have additional questions about the claims process, your adjuster or insurance agencies are also valuable resources. However, we live in a busy world, and despite the fact that you have just been through a disaster, the world keeps turning. While you are trying to handle your insurance claims, you still have to go to work, take care of your children, and pay your bills on time. If you find yourself lacking the time or knowledge to handle these claims on your own, do not be afraid to reach out for assistance with your claims. The attorneys at Shipman & Wright are at your service, and ready to take this weight of the claims process off of your shoulders by handling your insurance claims from beginning to end for you.