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Keep Your Receipts - Disaster Victims Begin Long Process of Rebuilding

In our last post, we talked about the San Bruno gas explosion and the costs of repairs. Florida homeowners are no strangers to disasters, but we believe it's worthwhile to talk about the insurance implications of the San Bruno accident.

 

After their neighborhood exploded in a ball of fire, the residents of San Bruno were taken to an emergency shelter. Among the many resources available to them there were insurance agents. About 20 families started the claim process, but, according to one agent at the site, "They're kind of lost."

 

Since then, news media have reported that insurance agents are encouraging the victims to file their claims as quickly as possible. With the claim filed, residents who have lost their homes, for example, will be able to have the costs of alternative housing covered. Families who lost their homes will probably have to wait six to 12 months to get into a new home.

 

Everyone affected by the explosion should keep careful records of expenditures for everything, including, according to one expert, receipts for that morning coffee they used to have at home. Insurance companies must reimburse the costs of lodging, meals, mileage from the hotel to the home - all of the expenses incurred as a result of the explosion. While each policy differs, insurance typically covers these living expenses for as long as two years. If getting families "re-housed" takes about 12 months, insurance should cover the entire period.

Homeowners whose houses were damaged but not destroyed will have repairs to manage. Unfortunately, with large-scale disasters come small-time hustlers. Both state officials and consumer organizations warn homeowners to be careful when hiring contractors. Homeowners should ask for proof of a current license, use the internet or builders association as a resource, and only hire a contractor when their license has been confirmed by a trustworthy source.

 

The insurance policy should always be the first step to recovery. While the utility will absorb the costs and the residents' deductibles if the California Public Utilities Commission determines the company was at fault, the insurer - not the homeowner - will recover directly from the utility. What is unclear is whether the company will reimburse victims for losses not covered by their insurance.

 

In the past 20 years, the Unites States has seen more than 2,800 significant gas pipe accidents. Areas like San Bruno are particularly at risk, because they have grown so much since the pipe was laid 40 or 50 years ago.

 

Resources:

 

The Bay Citizen "After Evacuation, Insurance Is Next Task" 9/10/10

ABC7 - 7 on Your Side "Insurance Advice for San Bruno Explosion Victims" 9/10/10

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