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Hurricane Sandy has damaged my car...what can I do?

If you have comprehensive insurance and your car has been damaged after the Sandy storm, then you can file a claim. Comprehensive policies protect you from natural disasters, which include storms, as part of your auto insurance coverage. Here are some tips on how to handle the claim:

Know your rights: Read and re-read the insurance papers. Understand what is covered and what isn't – make sure that you have a comprehensive insurance policy and that natural disasters are covered. A lot of people are going to have a rude wake-up call when they realize that they should have bought a comprehensive insurance policy, but it’s too late now and their cars are wrecked.

Be patient: Many people will be filing claims these days, so don’t expect yours to be solved immediately. Insurance companies are going to be overly crowded with analyzing claims, particularly in shore areas, so be patient about it. Don’t expect your claim to be settled in a matter of days, because it is likely to take much longer. On the other hand, remember that insurance claims are handled on a first-come, first-serve basis, so, if you have not done it already, pick up the phone right now and call your insurance agent.

Take picture: Be sure you take as detailed pictures of the accident as you can. You will want to document the damages at the moment of the wreckage.

Don’t make repairs on your own: Don’t try to fix the car damages on your own, or take it to a service shop without the insurer’s consent. You could end up having your claim denied if you make permanent repairs before the insurer’s underwriters can analyze the damages. You can, however, unmount the front and back seats and leave them outside to dry off. The quicker you do it, the lower the chances that they will mold. If you need professional help to have them unmounted, keep the receipts.

Watch out for con artists: There will be fraudsters these days who will claim to work with your insurance company and offer to assist you with your claim. Make sure you ask for ID’s from whoever knocks at your door, and call  your insurance to check their references if they look shady.

Don’t be afraid to file complaints: If you aren’t happy with the way your insurance company is handling your claim, file a complaint. In New Jersey you can file a complaint here.

Worried Your Claim Will be Denied? Always feel free to hire an independent claims adjuster. Sadly, some insurance companies are denying coverage. You can find a public property claims adjuster on the NAPIA website. Keep in mind that those guys will charge you for their service, but if your claim is substantial, a second opinion will help you get the coverage you paid for. This tip also applies to home inspections, where the dollar figures involved are much higher.

Joseph M. Ghabour
Auto, Bus, Pedestrian, Motorcycle accident, medical malpractice and worker's compensation attorney.

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