Over 25 years ago, the San Francisco Bay area was hit by the strongest earthquake in recorded history, which ruptured water mains, destroyed gas lines, and damaged historic structures.
While the bay area is still recovering from the massive earthquake, it was hit by another quake on Sunday, August 24, with aftershocks lasting the rest of the week.
Over 170 people have been injured in Napa Valley, with six critically injured. According to preliminary reports, the earthquake measured 6.1 on the Richter scale. Losses are expected to be in the $300 million range.
According to an Insurance Information Institute press release, if the earthquake has damaged your business, an insurance adjuster’s visit is the starting point for resuming normal operations.
After you report a loss, your insurance company will either send you a proof of loss form to complete or set up an appointment for an insurance adjuster to inspect the site and guide you through the claims process.
The adjuster will review all information/your policy as part of this process to determine coverage and will request that you obtain repair estimates. The more information you can provide the adjuster, the faster your claim will be resolved.
According to the III, the following seven steps are essential to the claims process:
- Contact your insurance company as soon as possible. If you have evacuated or are unable to work at your place of business, make sure your insurance company knows how to reach you. Your policy number, loss location, cell phone number, and backup contact information should all be available. If it is safe to do so, you should try to meet the claims adjuster at your property.
- Perform emergency repairs and secure your property. Take steps to protect your property and reduce the time it may take to restore it even before the adjuster arrives, if you can do so without causing additional damage.
- Carefully review your policy. Examine your “declarations” page carefully. This is the page that includes your name, address, policy number, coverage categories, dollar limits, and policy endorsements. Check that you have a current copy of your policy. There are also “Endorsements” (extras) listed; make sure to read the ones that apply to your policy. It should be noted that most standard business policies do not include earthquake insurance. Private insurers offer earthquake insurance as an endorsement. If you have the optional comprehensive coverage, commercial vehicles may be covered.
- Gather business records. Gather any relevant business records that you will need to prove the value of damaged equipment, inventory, or structures in your business insurance claim. Business income (also known as business interruption) claims require proof of income generated by the business both before and after the interruption began. Tax returns, monthly sales tax returns, business contracts, budgets, financial statements, and other information relevant to calculating your company’s projected income are examples of documents proving income.
- Maintain an accurate record of all expenses incurred to protect or repair your business. If your company is forced to relocate or suspend operations, you must provide information on the costs of doing business from a temporary location, including detailed records of business activity, as well as ongoing expenses while your company is closed (e.g., advertising, utilities). Loss or damage to automobiles, vans, trucks, or specialty vehicles, which may impair your ability to conduct business, should also be reported.
- Photograph the damage, including any destroyed items, and consult with your insurance company before removing any debris. In general, you should not discard any damaged items until the claims adjuster arrives. However, if it is necessary to dispose of some items, notify your insurance company and photograph and video any damage before disposing of the items. Many insurance companies accept photographic documentation online.
- Maintain your organization. Remember to keep the insurance claim reference number, contact information for the adjuster and other insurance companies, photographs of the damage, receipts, repair bills, and estimates. Keep all of your paperwork organized so that you can easily refer to it if questions arise.
You can check the status of your claim with your insurer by phone or online after you have reported it. You can access claim information, register for direct deposit of qualified claim payments on qualified losses, upload documents, and communicate with your claims adjuster with an online account.