Hermine insurance tips from the ‘Master of Disaster’

in Apolitical/Top Headlines by

What’s the first thing you should do with Hurricane Hermine approaching?

“Secure family, important documents, and possessions, then contact family members outside of the disaster area to let them know your current situation.”

That was the word Thursday from Chip Merlin, founder of the Merlin Law Group in Tampa. Dubbed the “Master of Disaster” by the Tampa Bay Times for post-catastrophe tangling with insurers, he released a pre-hurricane tip sheet for Floridians.

“Homeowners should do a few very important things after they experience home damage to make it nearly impossible for their insurance company to deny legitimate losses from this or any other storm,” he said.

Here’s the rest of his Top 10 list:

— “Document personal and surrounding losses by taking photos and video.”

— “Protect against further damage. Insurance companies, unfortunately, are able to deny loss claims if future damages are deemed preventable.”

— “Seek alternative housing for occupants if your home is unsafe.”

— “Continue monitoring media, fire and emergency officials.”

— “Report losses to your insurance company, documenting every conversation in writing, including the time, date, and topics discussed.”

— “Carefully vet all third-party vendors offering to assist in clean-up and/or repairs. Ask for references, copies of state licensing, and any professional insurance policies that could guarantee the work.”

— “Contact your mortgage company. Unless you are told otherwise, you will still be required to make mortgage payments, even if your home is damaged.”

— “It could be unsafe to live in a flooded and/or wet home without power. Be sure to utilize emergency, civic, or community support.”

— “Ask questions, don’t allow strangers to pressure you into hasty decisions. Make decisions once you feel completely informed. Stay calm!”

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.