7 Key Steps for Business Owners to Take When Claiming Ice Storm Damage Under Their Commercial Insurance Policy
With heavy ice storms pounding down across Texas and the Midwest this past weekend, many business owners will soon be managing extensive property repairs and a lengthy insurance claims process. And fixing the damage to roofing, windows, exterior walls and flooring won’t come cheaply — the Insurance Information Institute estimates that similar winter storms in 2015 caused an estimated $3.5 billion in damages.
The good news? As long as proper coverage has been secured by the policyholder, then winter storm damage – such as dents or cracks caused by falling ice, collapsed roofing caused by heavy ice loads, water damage caused by frozen pipes and ice dams — will usually be covered under most commercial policies.
The bad news? Ice damage can be tough to spot and even harder to document.
Often following an ice storm, business owners don’t realize how badly their property has been damaged because it can go unnoticed for months until much later when the roof begins to leak. Check to see if trees on the property are broken or knocked over, if cars parked in the open are dented, or if any of the buildings’ windows are cracked. If these items show signs of ice damage, then your roof may have been compromised and it’s time to call in a professional to help you identify and document the damage
We spoke to Esteves and to Carl Gross, Vice President and CAO at Detroit-based Globe Midwest/Adjusters International, to identify seven key steps that business owners in Texas and the Midwest can take to maximize their chances of recovering their full repair costs after an ice storm:
1.) Contact your insurance company immediately — as the insured, you are responsible for filing your property insurance claim.
2.) Know what you are entitled to under your commercial insurance policy by requesting a full copy of your policy and asking your broker or agent how much ice storm coverage it contains. Some other specific coverages which might provide relief are found under the collapse endorsement
3.) Keep track of, and notate, all communications between you and the insurance company as well as any receipts related to the loss.
4.) Get organized. Business owners should document the damage through pictures and video clips. Also track down receipts for any temporary/emergency repairs to damaged exterior features such as roofs, doors and windows.
5.) Create an inventory of all items lost or damaged in the ice storms.
6.) Be sure to check everything that could have been dented or broken by the ice, including: security cameras, gutters, siding, HVAC units and landscaping (shrubs, flowers, plants, garden), outdoor equipment, roofing (shingles, skylights), stairs/steps, and windows.
7.) Have a detailed, itemized estimate of damage prepared by a professional to submit to your insurance company. Do not rely solely on their estimates.
Gross recommends that business owners consider hiring a public adjuster to help them fully recover from the loss and negotiate with the insurance company on their behalf. Public adjusters bring expertise and knowledge to what can otherwise be a lengthy and confusing process for those outside of the insurance industry.
It is in the business owner’s best interest to have a property insurance expert by their side throughout the ice storm property damage claims process. Otherwise, they may be at an extreme disadvantage because the insurance company’s experts are primarily representing their interests. You can put your best foot forward at the onset of the claims process by having a qualified public adjuster do the valuations for you and guide you through the entire claims process to help you obtain the best possible settlement.