The powerful derecho that struck Ottawa on May 21 caused widespread chaos, downing trees, power lines and leaving tens of thousands without electricity for days.
But the storm also prompted questions about insurance and what to do if, say, a storm damages your roof or causes a tree to fall on your home.
Andrew Bertucci, director of external communications for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, provided Postmedia with answers to common questions about insurance and filing claims — which are useful to keep in mind, particularly as experts warn that extreme weather events like the derecho will become more common as the climate changes.
What should I do if my home has been damaged by a storm?
Once emergency officials say it is OK to enter the home and safety measures have been considered/taken, call your insurance representative or company. Most insurers have 24-hour claims service. Be as detailed as possible when providing information.
List all damaged or destroyed items. If possible, assemble proofs of purchase, photos, receipts and warranties. Take photos of damage and keep damaged items unless they pose health hazards.
Keep all receipts related to cleanup and living expenses if you’ve been displaced. Ask your insurance representative about what expenses you may be entitled to and for how long.
What should I do if my home is unfit to live in?
Most home, condominium and tenant’s insurance policies cover the cost of alternate accommodations and living expenses for people who are prohibited from returning or because their home is unliveable as a result of insured damage. This is typically called “Additional Living Expenses” or “ALE” in insurance policies.
If your home is unfit to live in, ask your insurer about what expenses you’re entitled to and for how long. Keep receipts and invoices for additional living expenses.
What is a proof of loss form?
Once you start an insurance claim, your insurance company will ask you to complete a “proof of loss” form. It lists what property and/or items were damaged or lost, plus the value or cost of the damage or loss.
You must sign and swear the statements you make in the proof of loss are true. If any of the statements are untrue, insurance may be voided. Usually the proof of loss must be completed and returned to an insurance company within 30 days.
Can my insurance provider reimburse me for spoiled food after the power outage?
Your refrigerator, freezer and their contents may be covered for damage related to food spoilage caused by accidental power interruption. Typically, your freezer and its contents are insured for a specified amount. Be sure to check your policy.
Before disposing of food from your refrigerator and freezer, make a list and take photos of the contents for insurance purposes.
If you suspect your fridge or freezer is contaminated by food spoilage or other damage, speak to your insurer before discarding the appliance.
How do (or can) I choose a contractor to repair my home?
You can ask your insurer for contractor recommendations. Many insurers have established relationships with remediation contractors and can vouch for reliability and quality of work. Many insurers also guarantee the work of recommended service providers.
However, you are not obligated to use a company recommended by your insurer. A resident impacted by the wind storm can use a service provider of their choice, though the insurer has the right to control costs. Many times an insurer will get “control” estimates to help manage costs and prevent increased costs during events. Before signing a contract, speak with your insurance adjuster to find out how much of the estimate your insurer will pay.
The responses have been edited for length.