Tornados are destructive, violent vortices of air extending from the heights of severe thunderstorms to the ground. These fierce storms are more prevalent in the United States than anywhere else in the world. The most infamous area in the country for tornados is known as “Tornado Alley,” which stretches from Texas through Oklahoma and Kansas to Nebraska. While Arkansas is not located in this area, it has suffered many devastating tornados over the years, averaging approximately 26 touchdowns a year.
Unfortunately, the bereaved people of Arkansas have had to deal with the devastating losses associated with tornadoes. As Arkansas residents pick up the pieces after a catastrophic tornado, many have been left wondering how their insurance will cover property damage caused by the storm. Below, one of our Fayetteville insurance attorneys discusses how to file a tornado claim and how you may be able to qualify for federal assistance.
Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, has been assisting individuals and families dealing with property and personal losses from tragic tornados. For many, the thought of overcoming the destruction seems impossible. With the help of a compassionate and committed lawyer, you could find a way to move forward. Call our law offices at (479) 316-0438 to speak with a knowledgeable lawyer.
Steps to Take to File a Tornado Claim in Arkansas
We wrote about how tornado damage is typically covered under standard homeowners insurance. While most policies do not specifically mention tornadoes by name, they do address damage caused by high winds, storms, and rain. In 2020, tornadoes actually accounted for 85% of all covered losses caused by natural disasters in the United States.
But after your property has been damaged, what should you do?
Contact Your Insurance Company
First of all, it is extremely important that you get in touch with your insurance company right away. Many insurance policies set a time limit on how long you have to file a claim, so the sooner you’re able to speak to your insurer, the better. When you contact your insurance provider, be prepared to answer specific questions regarding the damage.
You should also keep a detailed record of all your interactions with your insurance company. Make a note of who you speak to, and when you speak to them. The more organized and supported by evidence you are, the smoother the claims process will go. Furthermore, if your claim is denied and you need to appeal the decision, our Arkansas insurance attorneys will need this information.
Also, review your policy. Unfortunately, it has become common for tornado insurance coverage to be insufficient to cover homeowners’ expenses. Before you call, you should know what your policy covers and if there are any limitations or restrictions.
Do not forget to ask your insurance agent if you are eligible for disaster tax deductions, additional living expenses, discounts, or other financial assistance.
In addition to the normal location for your insurer, you may be able to find a more convenient mobile claims unit. You can find out if a mobile unit is located near you by speaking to your insurance company, the Arkansas Insurance Department, or through a shelter.
Document the Damage
As stated above, when you do speak to the insurance company, be prepared with as much data as you can possibly gather. In particular, it’s a very good idea to thoroughly document the damage to your property. This includes taking photographs of your property and the storm damage. Try to get shots from multiple angles to ensure a complete and accurate representation of your losses. It is also a good idea to record video footage to supplement the photographs if you can. Do not forget to take the time to make a detailed list of the property that was damaged or lost before speaking with an insurance adjuster. To provide proof to your insurance provider, try to track down as many receipts and purchase records as you can. If you cannot find or remember your purchases, your credit card company should be able to help. Documentation of your property and damage will help ensure your claim covers everything you need.
Make Temporary Repairs
You should make necessary and reasonable repairs to prevent further damage to your home and property after a tornado. However, these repairs should not be permanent unless you have authorization from your insurance company. Keep all your receipts and documents related to any repairs you made.
Schedule Permanent Repairs
While you should delay any permanent repairs until your insurance provider has approved them, once you have approval, you should schedule them as soon as possible. After a tornado, appointments fill up quickly.
Your insurance company is not in the business of protecting you from repair scams. When someone’s home is damaged, they are often looking for quick repairs and, sometimes, looking for a deal. Make sure anyone you choose is licensed and bonded. You should also ask for references. Resist the temptation to quickly sign any work contracts with opportunistic building companies. These companies know that their services are in high demand immediately after a natural disaster, and if you rush to rebuild, you could wind up overspending. Try to collect and compare a handful of different rates before you make a selection. If you believe you have been taken advantage of, contact our Arkansas insurance lawyers.
Also, you should not expect or anticipate upgrades. Your insurance company will only pay to replace what was lost. If you try to replace aluminum siding with custom stonework, you will only delay your claim or possibly, cause it to be denied.
Contact Our Experienced Arkansas Insurance Attorneys if You Have Questions
Insurance policies could have confusing language. You do not want to jeopardize your claim because you misunderstand a purposefully vague term or failed to comply with specific requirements. Having our Arkansas insurance attorneys review your policy and work with you could speed up the process and get you the financial assistance you need in a shorter amount of time.
How to File a Federal Assistance Request
While the majority of Americans do have homeowners insurance, more than half are underinsured. However, if the government declares a federal disaster in Arkansas, tornado victims might be able to qualify for federal aid to help cover expenses. So how do you file a request for federal assistance?
There are three ways you can get started:
- Call the registration line at (800) 621-3363.
- Visit www.disasterassistance.gov. You will find links to apply for disaster assistance and to check the status of your application. You will also find assistance locators, document forms, and assistance FAQs.
- Mobile device. Go to fema.gov to view FEMA’s mobile site.
It is important to note that this assistance is not available after every storm. If you have any questions, you could contact our Arkansas insurance lawyers.
Why Tornado Claims Are Delayed in Arkansas
A delay in processing a tornado insurance claim could be a simple clerical mistake or an overlooked detail. However, resolving a delayed claim is not always easy.
The violent storms that produce tornados often cause large-scale damage over great expanses of areas, counties, and states. This significant amount of damage at one time means some insurance companies will have to send hundreds of adjusters out to investigate and process claims. The sheer volume of claims means that adjusters could be overworked, stressed, rushed, and prone to errors. If an adjuster lacks training or is inexperienced, then the risk of mistakes or delays increases.
All these potential problems and issues often lead to longer waiting periods for policyholders in desperate need of financial assistance. Because of the extent of damage tornados produce, there are more complex questions concerning coverage and claims than an ordinary storm. Homes and businesses might have suffered total losses instead of incidents of isolated damage. When a property is completely destroyed, the ensuing insurance claim is extremely significant.
There are also questions about what should be covered. For instance, some policies have restrictions concerning water damage or damage to interior spaces.
Unfortunately, some insurance providers act unfairly or in bad faith when processing or investigating a tornado claim. It is not uncommon for an insurance company to delay processing a claim in hopes the homeowner will accept a smaller amount than they deserve.
Even though you pay monthly or yearly premiums for your homeowners’ insurance, insurance companies are not working for you. Some policyholders will find themselves facing longer delays if they refused to accept an unfairly low settlement offer. Tornados cause extensive damage and cost insurance companies millions of dollars. An insurer only benefits from delaying or denying a claim. If your claim has been delayed or denied, you need our aggressive Arkansas insurance attorneys to advocate for your rights.
Contact Our Arkansas Insurance Attorneys for a Free Consultation
If you or someone you love was hurt or lost property during a tornado in Arkansas, our experienced Fayetteville AR personal injury lawyers can help you claim financial compensation. To schedule a consultation, call Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, today at (479) 316-0438, or contact us online.