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Insurance steps to take after storm damage

Homeowners who find damage to their property from

Homeowners who find damage to their property from Sandy are advised to take these steps insurance experts say: Call insurance brokers or companies, photograph and list the damage and read policies for any deductibles or exclusions. This tree came down on a house and car on Conklin Lane in Huntington. (Oct.30, 2012) Credit: Ed Betz

Homeowners who awake Tuesday to find their homes damaged by Sandy should call their insurance broker or company, photograph and list the damage and read their policies for any deductibles or exclusions, experts advised Monday.

Insurance companies have grown increasingly skittish since devastating and expensive storms such as Hurricane Katrina  that sacked New Orleans in 2005. Some have abandoned high-risk coastal areas like Long Island.

Spokesman Mike Barry of the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group based in Manhattan, said major insurers often bring mobile claims adjustment vans into hard-hit areas to process claims. Homeowners should contact their broker or company as soon as possible, he said, after the damage occurs.

While waiting for an adjuster, he said, homeowners should photograph the damage and list any personal items damaged -- in as much detail as possible. "For every dollar of coverage on the dwelling, policies usually have 50 to 75 cents of coverage for personal possessions," he said.

Some policies pay replacement cost -- that is, the cost of a similar item new, said Barry. Others pay cash value -- that is, the value of the item used.

Homeowners who have purchased a flood insurance policy -- about 80,000 on Long Island -- will have to file a separate claim, said broker Thomas Crowley of Maran Corporate Risk Associates in Southampton.

He said homeowners don't have to wait for an adjuster to visit to seek shelter in a hotel if damage has made the house impossible to live in -- keeping in mind, however, that there probably is a limit on the coverage for additional living expenses.

And, he said, "homeowners can take steps to protect their properties from further damage." An example, he said, would be having a tree removed that is resting on a house, or having a flooded basement pumped out. "With a huge volume of claims they could be waiting long for an adjuster," he said.

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