After the Memorial Day weekend storms, property owners may consider filing insurance claims for property damages. Here’s what experts wanted to highlight about the process.

What happened?

Multiple houses in North Texas were damaged when four tornadoes touched down the night of May 25, according to a preliminary survey released by the National Weather Service. Several homes near Prairie Meadow Lane just north of Celina were damaged by an EF3 tornado with winds estimated to peak at 165 mph.

Damage from severe weather events, such as tornadoes, is typically covered under a standard insurance policy for homeowners, renters and business owners, according to a May 28 news release from the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.

“When disaster strikes, insurers’ overwhelming priority is to help their customers rebuild and restore their property,” APCIA President and CEO David Sampson said in a statement. “We recognize many residents suffered significant losses and are trying to navigate their next steps, but they don’t have to do it alone. Insurers are ready to help.”

What they’re saying

After a storm, property owners should first assess any damage, and document it with photos and videos, said Rich Johnson, communications and public affairs director for the Insurance Council of Texas. They should make necessary repairs, such as fixing a broken window that’s letting water into the home, and keep track of receipts with the cost of those repairs.

Property owners can file a claim online or by calling their insurance company. Once a claim has been filed, the insurance company will typically send an adjuster to assess damages. Property owners can also call a roofer or a contractor to help document and assess the damage.

After damages have been assessed, the insurance company will determine a cost to replace and repair any damages to someone’s car or house, Johnson said.

“And then from there, you can start the work,” he said.

The APCIA recommends property owners be aware of dishonest contractors or other third parties who try to become involved with the insurance claims process. Property owners should carefully consider any proposals from contractors, public adjusters and lawyers offering to help with any insurance claims and damage repair process.

Johnson recommended asking friends and family members for contractor recommendations.

“Sometimes the insurance company is a good resource,” he said. “They may have contractors in the area or body shops that they’ve worked with. They know their rates [and] what they’re going to charge.”

Also of note

Car owners with comprehensive coverage can file a claim if it was damaged during the storm, Johnson said. If a claim is filed on a car, the insurance company may ask the owner to drive the car somewhere for a damage assessment or it will send an adjuster to assess damages on-site.

“If you’re not carrying comprehensive [coverage], all those costs will come out of pocket,” Johnson said.

Another viewpoint

Ann Anderson, owner of the Anderson Insurance Agency based in Frisco, advised property owners to first work with their local insurance agents and contractors. In today’s insurance environment, Anderson does everything she can to avoid making a claim, she said.

“It really depends on the extent of the damage,” she said.

Repairs can sometimes cost less than a property owner’s deductible, which is based on a percentage of their house’s value. For instance, if someone’s roof would cost $1,000 to repair but their deductible is $6,000, Anderson wouldn’t recommend filing a claim.

“The claims department is not where you call for advice,” Anderson said. “If you have a local agent, you can usually call them and say, ‘I don’t know whether I should file a claim or not.’”

Insurance agents can recommend reputable contractors to property owners needing repairs. They can also work with their clients through the claims process.

“If you do get to a point where you’re filing a claim, ... work closely with your adjuster or with your agent to make sure that you get everything covered inside that claim,” Anderson said. “Once you’re going down the path and you have a claim that’s been filed, just make sure that everything is documented and that you get the most out of it.”

For more information, including a glossary of terms and guides to selecting home and auto insurance policies, residents can visit the Texas Department of Insurance’s website.