For Immediate Release - June 03, 2011

AG Coakley Offers Consumer Advice to Residents Dealing with the Aftermath of Tornadoes and Storms in Central and Western Massachusetts

Boston - As residents and affected communities begin to work to repair the damage from the aftermath of the tornadoes that swept through the region on Wednesday, Attorney General Martha Coakley offers advice to Massachusetts consumers when dealing with insurance policies and home contractors.

Important things to know about Homeowners Insurance:

  • Most standard homeowner policies cover damage from windstorms including tornados. For most of these policies, you will also pay an out of pocket deductible. The amount you pay should be listed in your policy.
  • There are many different types of homeowner policies. Be aware of which type of policy you have chosen. Each type offers different amounts of coverage:
  • Actual Cash Value: An actual cash value policy will cover the cost to replace an item or structure, minus depreciation.
  • Replacement Cost: Replacement cost policies cover the amount to repair or replace the damaged property using materials of like kind and quality without depreciation. However, these policies often have a monetary cap.
  • Guaranteed Replacement Cost: These policies cover the amount to repair or replace the damaged property, no matter what the cost. These sorts of policies are often expensive and most homes are not covered by them.
  • Many policies only cover fallen trees if they damage the home or block access to your driveway. Many policies usually cap the removal of trees from your premises at $500, regardless of the number of fallen trees.
  • Your insurance company should provide you with a free adjuster. Hiring a public adjuster may cost you between 15%-30% of your recovery.
  • Be aware of the risk of filing a claim for small items; insurers sometime will refuse to renew a policy if you submit a claim. It is also possible that no other carrier in the voluntary market will insure you if you file a claim, forcing you into the FAIR plan.
    • The FAIR Plan: is set up for consumers who cannot obtain homeowner's coverage in the voluntary market. The cost of the FAIR plan can be higher than other insurance carriers' policies.
  • If you experience damage to your home, report the loss to your agent or insurer as soon as possible. If you need assistance in determining whether you have applicable insurance coverage, or if you believe your agent or insurance company misrepresented to you the extent of your coverage or the availability of insurance protections, you can contact Attorney General's Consumer Hotline at (617) 727-8400.

Important things to know about Auto Insurance:

  • Not all auto insurance policies will cover damage to your vehicle from a tornado. Damage will be covered if you have included comprehensive coverage in your policy. Comprehensive insurance covers damage to your car if it is damaged by anything outside of an accident, such as fallen trees and debris damage. The coverage pays to fix your vehicle minus a deductible. The deductible will be listed in your policy.
  • Glass damage is covered under comprehensive insurance. Some policies do not require a deductible for glass; however, others include a separate glass deductible. This deductible is separate from the comprehensive deductible. Check your policy or ask your insurance company if you have a glass deductible. If you have comprehensive coverage, it will cover any glass damage minus the glass deductible.
  • Like homeowners insurance, be aware that insurance companies may drop your coverage or raise your rates if you file a claim, even if the damage was not your fault.
  • If you experience damage to your vehicle, report the loss to your agent or insurer as soon as possible. If you need assistance in determining whether you have applicable insurance coverage, or if you believe your agent or insurance company misrepresented to you the extent of your coverage or the availability of insurance protections, you can contact Attorney General's Consumer Hotline at (617) 727-8400.

Home Improvement Contractors:

Here are some tips that can help you select a contractor to conduct repairs on your home:

  • Make sure that the person you are dealing with is a licensed contractor affiliated with a legitimate business. If you have access to a computer, you can verify a home improvement contractor's registration online on the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation's website: http://db.state.ma.us/homeimprovement/licenseelist.asp.
  • Ask for references-names of satisfied customers who can tell you about the business. If you can, ask a neighbor, friend or co-worker for the name of a business they have used.
  • Get estimates from more than one contractor and compare prices.
  • Check for a history of complaints with the Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau.
  • Obtain a written contract or estimate describing the work to be done, the price and estimated date of completion.
  • You should not pay more than one third the cost of the project at the inception of the contract, with another third due half way through the project and the balance paid when the work is completed to your satisfaction.
  • Be wary of a contractor who demands full payment up front. A reputable contractor should allow you to pay upon completion of the job, or at most, require a reasonable portion of the payment upon signing the contract and the remainder when the job is done.

Massachusetts residents in need of emergency assistance are urged to contact the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, at 508-820-2000, or 800-982-6846.

To check the history of a business or to file a complaint about a scam, the Attorney General's Office urges you to contact its consumer hotline at (617) 727-8400 or file a complaint online at www.mass.gov/ago/consumercomplaint .

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