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Hurricane Zeta victims begin filing insurance claims; higher deductible applies

Updated: Oct. 30, 2020 at 6:50 PM CDT
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Homeowners are beginning to flood insurers with claims following Hurricane Zeta's impact in...
Homeowners are beginning to flood insurers with claims following Hurricane Zeta's impact in southeast Louisiana.(Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Many people have more than just tree damage and because the damage at their property happened during a hurricane, they are facing much higher insurance deductibles.

A spokesman for State Farm, a major insurer of properties in Louisiana, said it is important for property owners to communicate with their insurance company or agents about what their policies cover both inside and outside their homes and what their financial responsibility is for hurricane damage.

Craig Berner’s sprawling fence came down in Metairie and he also has roof damage.

“It was pretty scary. We were up in the two-story there looking out the window,” said Berner. “A bunch of shingles missing and in fact, I just got off the phone with the insurance adjusters, scheduling to come on out to take a look at it.”

Jason Branch lives down the street from Berner and enlisted his father’s help in collecting the wood that made up Berner’s destroyed fence.

“I have some damage myself and so it’s one neighbor helping another really,” said Branch.

Chris Pilcic, a spokesman for State Farm, says claims they are receiving as a result of Hurricane Zeta include damage to houses and vehicles.

“Ranging from fairly minor damage that customers are reporting to catastrophic losses,” said Pilcic.

Like thousands of others in southeast Louisiana Berner and Branch face higher deductibles because the damage happened as a result of a named storm.

“There is a different deductible, yes, mine is pretty steep, so he’s going to have to be a pretty sweet adjuster to probably give me some damage, damage money,” said Berner.

Because of the higher deductible Branch may forgo filing a claim with his insurance company.

“The working person, the common working person just doesn’t have money to just set aside like that, we’re living paycheck to paycheck and doing the best we can,” said Branch.

The special hurricane deductibles have been widely used since Hurricane Katrina decimated the Gulf Coast in 2005. Typically, they are a percentage of the insured value of the property and in some cases, the amount of the deductible could be as high as five percent of the policy limits. So, 5 percent of a $200,000 policy would be $10,000.

Pilcic says it is important to know what your policy covers and what deductibles apply.

“Remember that storms can be physically, financially, and emotionally overwhelming, so you want to make informed decisions. Start by documenting all the damage around your home by taking pictures and have that conversation with your insurance agent or your insurance company and know what to expect. Talk about your coverage and your policy, so there are no surprises along the way,” he said.

And as the COVID-19 pandemic continues State Farm is utilizing technology, including drones, to assist with hurricane claims.

“We may ask the customer to join us in a video-chat, show us the damages around their house, we take pictures of it and it really gets the claim process started and gets that ball rolling. And then when there is the need for in-person inspection we may do that with a drone pilot or a drone team, or if there’s a face-to-face interaction needed we’re practicing that social distancing wearing personal protective equipment,” said Pilcic.

He said hurricane victims should also take steps to keep damage from getting worse.

“It’s always a good idea to take steps to prevent further loss to your home, so if you have broken windows or part of the roof is damaged, maybe a tree came down on your covered property and you take steps such as putting in a tarp or hiring to get that temporary work done, document everything that you’ve done to prevent further loss with pictures and save all of your receipts and when you have the conversation with the insurance company about your claim present that to them and let them know the steps that you’ve taken to prevent further damage to your home,” said Pilcic.

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