Mansell, Engel & Cole

Pay attention to the fine print in your homeowners' policy

With the unpredictability of the weather here in Oklahoma, you more than likely willingly pay for homeowners' insurance. Even if you don't necessarily like paying the premiums, the odds are that at some point, you may need to file a claim.

Whether the damage occurs due to a tornado, heavy rains or hail, Oklahoma City sees its share of this type of weather. The recent increase in earthquakes in the area could also lead to damage requiring significant repairs as well. Of course, the weather and the Earth are not the only dangers to your home; fires and other disasters can happen.

Will your homeowners' insurance cover your claim?

That is the question, isn't it? Did you thoroughly read your policy? You may discover that the fine print limits what personal property is covered or that certain types of damage are not covered by your policy. Some of the circumstances limited or eliminated under your policy could include the following:

  • Sinkholes
  • Flooding
  • Earthquakes
  • Sump pump failures
  • Sewer backups

Many policies also exclude acts of war, mudslides and hurricanes, which more than likely don't affect you here in OKC. You may need to purchase additional coverage for these exclusions from your primary policy. For example, earthquakes didn't used to be much of an issue here, but in recent years, they have become more frequent, so ensuring you have coverage for damage caused by one may be necessary.

Yet another important distinction

The other distinction you need to make regarding your policy is whether it covers the replacement value of an item or its actual cash value. The more advantageous coverage is replacement cost since it would provide you with the amount needed to replace the item (such as a dining table and chairs) instead of the current market value of it minus a certain amount for depreciation. It is these types of issues that could make a significant impact on any claim you may need to file.

What if the insurance company denies or delays your claim?

Even if your policy covers the damages to your home and personal property, the insurance company may deny or delay your claim. In the meantime, the repairs to your home and replacement of your belongings need to move forward.

When dealing with an insurance company, it might benefit you to seek out some advice and guidance in appealing the decision or speeding up the process. Understanding your rights and legal options could help. In addition, insurance companies must adhere to certain state and federal laws in their dealings with claimants and those they insure. It may be necessary to initiate legal action if you suspect bad faith on the part of your insurance company.

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