Nova Scotia

Devastated by Dorian? Insurance experts give their tips for filing claims

As people assess the damage to their homes in the wake of Hurricane Dorian experts pass along their tips for filing an insurance claim.

'If you have something serious, you call into one of those 1-800 numbers and get yourself into the queue'

Insurance experts say it's important people try and report any and all damage to their insurance company as soon as they can. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Dorian may have moved on from Atlantic Canada, but insurance claims are expected to start pouring in now that the storm is gone.

"There is going to be quite likely a high number of claims and the industry is ready, we've been getting ready for days and days," said Amanda Dean, vice-president Atlantic for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, an industry association that represents many of Canada's private insurers.

The powerful storm battered the Maritimes this weekend, with Nova Scotia particularly hard hit. From trees falling on homes, to roofs being blown off and basements filling with water, homeowners have a lot of insurance claims to submit.

Dean said typical home insurance policies cover wind damage.

"So part of your roof blowing off and the rain coming through that opening in the roof, tree limbs through windows, damage to the house by other flying debris, that is typically covered," Dean told Information Morning

Amanda Dean is with the Insurance Bureau of Canada, a national industry association representing Canada's private home, auto and business insurers. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Exactly how insurance will cover flooded basements caused by Dorian is a bit harder to pin down. If the water came through pipes and drains in the floor, homeowners will need to have sewer backup coverage. 

But if the water came through a basement window, the damage might not be covered at all. Dean said people would need overland flooding or extended water plans in order to have that damage repaired through their insurance.     

Before making the call to start the claim's process, Dean said it's important people take note of all the damage. 

"If they can take photos, document the damage, whether it's even creating a little jot note list on a piece of paper and kind of estimated time when that damage happened, that will all help the claims process," she said. 

Once people make the call, Dean said it's important they tell their insurance company about all the damage caused to their home, including if they had food spoil because of power outages.

"Food spoilage is in a typical insurance policy, but if you are just making a food spoilage claim it may be subject to your deductible. So you're going to want to ask that question to your insurance representative when you call."   

Work crews have been busy trying to remove trees and other debris that damaged homes, power equipment and vehicles. (Peter Dawson/Radio-Canada)

Anyone with serious property damage should call the emergency claim number printed on their insurance documents, said Shaun Keyes, president of Keyes Insurance Brokerage. 

"If you have something serious, you call into one of those 1-800 numbers and get yourself into the queue," he said. 

It's important that people make that phone call as soon as they can because it gives insurance companies more time to respond to the claim, said Keyes.

However, he said people need to remember that companies will triage their claims, handling the most serious ones first. So someone whose home lost its roof will be dealt with before someone who had a few shingles blow off.

If people don't have the emergency number for their insurance company handy they can call the Insurance Bureau of Canada at 1-844-227-5422, extension 228. The bureau has the emergency contact information for insurance companies across the country.

Due to widespread power outages and disruptions to the province's cellular network many people could find it hard to communicate in any way with their insurance company.

Homes throughout the province were damaged by falling trees brought down by Dorian's strong winds. (Alain Arseneau/Radio-Canada)

But Dean said people shouldn't worry if it takes them a couple of days to file an insurance claim. She said there is no penalty for starting a claim a little later. 

Both Dean and Keyes suggest people do what they can to stop their home from being damaged further. So if a window was broken by Dorian, homeowners should try and patch it with a tarp or board to prevent water from getting in and causing more damage.

The claims process will start once people call their insurance company and report the damage, and that process can take a while, according to Dean. She said it's best if people try to be patient as companies do their work. 

"All personnel on the ground in Nova Scotia are ready and willing to get in and serve customers in this claims process," said Dean.

With files from Information Morning and Preston Mulligan