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'Take photos and video' | How to get the most out of your insurance claim and avoid fraud after a storm

AAA anticipates a massive amount of claims due to Hurricane Ian's widespread flooding and wind damage.

TAMPA, Fla. — Many Florida and Tampa Bay area residents will soon be filing insurance claims due to damage to their homes and cars. One organization wants to help Floridians get the most of out their insurance claims to ensure they get the coverage they need.

AAA anticipates a massive amount of claims due to Hurricane Ian's widespread flooding and wind damage. The company is being in agents to help assist on the ground in Florida.

In the meantime, the company is offering tips and expert advice to make your home damage claim.

Insurance advice

The most important advice is to always document the damage as much as possible and as early as possible. The aftermath of a storm can be very stressful and confusing, but experts say taking photos and videos immediately will be your best shot at getting coverage.

Also, do what you can to prevent further damage. Insurance companies will expect that you have taken basic steps toward prevention if you are able, such as covering broken windows with plastic or getting a pro to cover the roof with tarps to keep the rain out.

As far as expenses go, save every receipt! Many insurance policies cover expenses incurred from storm damage, such as any preliminary repairs, displacement, or other out-of-pocket expenses related to the claim. The expenses could also go toward your deductible, saving you further money. Expenses could also include tree removal, tarps, ice chests for food, overnight stay in a hotel, etc.

If you have extreme damage or your house is not liveable, find a safe place for you and your family to stay. Again, keep all receipts and document expenses as most homeowner policies will cover lodging costs.

How to avoid fraudulent or deceptive contractors

AAA urges Floridians to be leery of the potential for fraudulent or unlicensed contractors.

It's been seen time and time again, scammers and unlicensed workers will try to take advantage of those who are at their worst, dealing with the stress and loss of home destruction.

Dishonest contractors may try to profit by:

  • Accepting payment then never completing (or even showing up for) the job.
  • Using inferior materials or performing work that’s not up to code.

Red Flags to Watch For:

  • The contractor shows up unsolicited.
  • Points out damage you have not previously noticed.
  • Asks for full payment up front and/or in cash only.
  • Promises services at no charge to you or offers to waive your insurance deductible.
  • Pressures you to encourage your family, friends, or neighbors to hire them for services.
  • Offers you a discount for letting them use leftover materials from a previous job.

Always check the contractors credentials and do not allow them to inspect your property until you have confirmed they are licensed.

Verify the contractor has an active, valid Florida license at www.MyFloridaLicense.com.

Check for complaints filed against him or her on the Better Business Bureau’s website at www.BBB.org.

Dealing with flood-damaged vehicles

Cars will also suffer damage from the flood and high winds of a hurricane.

If you have a "comprehensive" car insurance policy, you likely are eligible for damage coverage. But Floridians are not legally required to carry comprehensive coverage.

AAA offers these tips for flood-damaged vehicles:

  • Do not attempt to start a vehicle if the water level rose above the door opening and the interior of the car is wet. Doing so could cause major problems if flood water has contaminated the engine oil or other vehicle fluids.
  • Take photos from the exterior of the vehicle. Do not open the doors if the water levels are still high. 
  • Once the waters have receded, take photos of the interior.

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