Was your home or business damaged by the tornadoes that tore through the Dallas metropolitan area on April 3, 2012? At least 11 tornadoes were confirmed, but even if you didn’t suffer a direct hit by a funnel cloud, the path of destruction can be widespread and devastating. If your property suffered tornado damage, there are steps you should take to ensure your insurance claim is not denied.

What You Should Do Now

• Take photos and video of the structure, contents and debris prior to moving or disposing of anything, and before making any temporary repairs.
• Tarp openings in your roof and walls if possible to prevent further damage.
• Do not dispose of any damaged property contents even though you think they may be a complete loss.
• Note all tornado damage, especially “cracks” in the structure that were not present before the tornado.
• Hire a contractor to clean up debris. If you do it yourself, you may not be compensated by your insurer or may only be given minimum wage.
• Make arrangements for living quarters if your home is uninhabitable and for storing its contents.
• Keep written receipts for all expenses, especially if you pay cash. This includes things like contractor fees, hotel and restaurant charges, cleaning, storage, etc.
• Only give copies of photos and documents to your insurance adjuster, not any originals.
• Make sure your contractor’s contract has a clear estimate of charges. If a contract says “the work will be done for an amount the insurer agrees to,” find another contractor. In many cases this type of contract is illegal.

When Your Adjustor Arrives

• Have the adjuster sign for anything you give him/her. This is your receipt that you have provided the documents requested.
• Do not understate what you feel your loss may be.
• Point out all tornado damages and have a witness with you when the adjuster inspects the property.
• Seek professional assistance before signing a proof of loss for your adjuster, so that you can make sure that the document is correct in every aspect.
• Be cooperative, but stand your ground on damages that you are expecting to be covered.
• Be wary of the following statement: “If there is anything else I did not cover, you can just supplement the claim later.” Supplementing is much more difficult than getting your claim paid properly up front.
Even if you do everything right, many Dallas area property owners may still experience insurance claim delays, disputes, and denials. Texas law requires insurance companies to state the reasons for delaying or denying payment, as long as the policy covers tornado damage. Your adjustor should come out promptly to assess your tornado damages, and you can prevent disputes later on by following the guidelines listed above. If your insurance claim is denied, don’t give up! Don’t let yourself become a victim twice when dealing with your tornado damage insurance claims.