How insurers are mobilizing to help Harvey victims

By BETH BUCZYNSKI Markets Associated Press

The nation's insurance companies are preparing for an onslaught of claims as Harvey's toll in Texas comes into focus.

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Although it's still too early to assess damage in the region, losses covered by property policies are expected to top $1 billion. Total losses due to continued rains and flooding will be even greater, since property policies don't cover flooding and only about 20 percent of Texas homeowners have flood insurance , according to the Insurance Council of Texas.

Here are how some major insurance companies are mobilizing for customers as well as tips for contacting agents and filing claims.

ALLSTATE

"We have hundreds of claims personnel staged in the Austin area ready to move into the damaged areas when it is safe to do so," Justin Herndon, Allstate spokesperson, said in an email.

He said Allstate plans to open a mobile claims center in Corpus Christi on Aug. 29, and other adjusters will visit damaged areas as conditions allow. Some of Allstate's claims professionals are also qualified flood adjusters, able to administer claims on behalf of the National Flood Insurance Program.

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Allstate recently announced plans to perform aerial inspections of storm damage with a drone fleet. "We have drones at the ready when we get cleared by the FAA," Herndon said. "We anticipate hundreds of flights each day; easily thousands in a week."

Customers can report their claim at an Allstate office, mobile claims center or by calling 1-800-547-8676.

FARMERS INSURANCE

"We have extra staff at call centers, claims personnel and adjusters on standby, and our mobile claims centers are ready to deploy," Carrie Bonney, director of public relations at Farmers Insurance, said in an email.

Customers can find mobile claims centers at Farmers.com/catastrophe or at @FarmersResponse on Twitter.

"Once there, (policyholders) will be able to use satellite phones to get in touch with family, use the internet cafe, get something to eat and of course talk to an adjuster or an agent," Bonney said.

GEICO

Customers can report property damage with the company's mobile app, at Geico.com or by calling 1-800-841-3000. The company's Twitter account also asks customers to get help by sending a direct message.

LIBERTY MUTUAL

The company has catastrophe-response teams in position to respond to policyholders affected by Harvey, according to Glenn Greenberg, director of media relations for Liberty Mutual.

"When road conditions permit, we will have mobile claims units in the region to quickly assist customers and facilitate claims handling," Greenberg said in an email. Customers can report claims at LibertyMutual.com/claims or by calling 1-800-225-2467.

NATIONWIDE INSURANCE

"We have one of our mobile Claims Response Units and several associates staged in Dallas," David Gilligan, a spokesperson for Nationwide, said in an email. "We are prepared to deploy to impacted areas to assist our members as soon as it is safe and legal to do so."

Customers can call the claims hotline at 1-800-421-3535 or contact their local agent.

PROGRESSIVE

Before Harvey hit, Progressive's website said claims experts were prepared to assist customers in Texas and Louisiana.

Policyholders can report claims online or by calling 1-800-776-4737. For more information, go to ProgressiveResponds.com.

STATE FARM

Thousands of claims specialists have been assigned to respond to Harvey, including catastrophe-response teams that will deploy from Austin and Dallas, according to Jim Camoriano, State Farm spokesperson.

Special mobile units are also set up to receive customers and provide a workspace for insurance adjusters. "We will examine every claim submitted to us, but our response teams process claims for State Farm policies, not NFIP policies," Camoriano said in an email, citing the National Flood Insurance Program.

Customers can also call 1-800-732-5246 or visit st8.fm/claim to file a claim.

TEXAS WINDSTORM INSURANCE ASSOCIATION (TWIA)

As the insurer of last resort for many within the disaster area, officials at the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association followed Harvey closely as it bore down on the region — posting daily updates on its website.

"TWIA has mobilized over 1,000 field adjusters as well as additional claims and call center staff who are ready to assist TWIA policyholders affected by Hurricane Harvey," Anna Stafford, spokesperson for the association, said in an email.

TWIA said that House Bill 1774, a new state law that makes it harder for people to dispute weather-related property damage claims, doesn't apply to its policyholders.

To report a claim, go to Twia.org/claimscenter or call 1-800-788-8247.

TIPS FOR FILING AN INSURANCE CLAIM AFTER HURRICANE HARVEY

— Contact your insurer as soon as possible. Be ready to provide your policy number, a detailed description of the damage and any special needs your family may have. Be prepared to wait, even with extra personnel on hand.

— Photograph damaged items. "Document the details of damaged items, including the date of purchase and approximate value — and collect receipts, if you have them," advises the Insurance Information Institute.

— Don't throw things away or start major repairs. Unless local officials require you to discard storm-damaged items for safety, leave them untouched until your insurance adjuster has inspected your property. Make repairs only to prevent further damage.

This article originally appeared on the personal finance website NerdWallet. Beth Buczynski is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: bbuczynski@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @bethbuczynski.

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NerdWallet: Find the best flood insurance

https://nerd.me/flood-insurance