In an emergency situation, always contact the authorities before calling your insurance company.

If there's a fire, call the fire department.

If there's a burglary, theft or vandalism, call the police. Don't wait to file the claim. Call the police first.

 If temporary repairs are necessary to protect the home from further damage, feel free to have them made before calling insurance company. Just document the work, take plenty of photos and advise your agent.

Always know your coverages. Don’t wait for an emergency or need to file a claim before you fully review and understand your existing policy. Review your policy regularly with your agent to fully understand what your policy covers and what it doesn’t. Coverage should be periodically reviewed to make sure it is adequate and fits your needs. Many terms and much of the language in the policy can be very ambiguous and your agent can help you make sense of it all. Additionally, needs and costs change over time and your agent can help you stay on top of this. Know what your policy covers and what is excluded. Common exclusions include wear & tear, damage from flooding, and damage to vehicles including motorcycles, boats and ATVs.

Consider the amount of the damage before filing a claim and know your deductibles. Most policies include a $1000-$2500 deductible and even higher deductibles for specific situations such as hurricanes and sink holes. Claims lesser than the deductibles will not be covered. Feel free to get your own estimate prior to filing a claim if unsure. Remember to seek advice from your agent. They can advise you on your policy without actually filing a claim with the carrier.

It's important to take plenty of photos and video. The availability and ease of digital cameras allows homeowners to provide the insurer with “before and after” documentation. A week before a storm hits, go take pictures of your walls and your roof. The most reasonable thing for a person to do is to take pictures inside their home, of the walls and the ceiling. The carrier will not be able to claim damage was pre-existing or normal wear and tear. This applies to your contents as well. Photos and videos can provide great inventories.

Document the damage. Beyond photographing or making a video to show damages, homeowners can hire their own adjuster, who will act independently of one provided by the insurance company. Keep track, and have duplicate copies of all estimates and receipts. Also, prepare a detailed inventory of all damaged possessions, with their approximate age, initial price and estimated cost to replace.

Don't assume something isn't covered. Just because a claim is initially rejected doesn’t mean the policy doesn’t say otherwise. This happens occasionally and your agent's job is make sure your claims are handled correctly and accordingly.