What you need to know about hurricane insurance after a storm

Hurricane Irma may have only hit Miami as a Category 1 storm, but it sure did some damage to cars, trees, and houses.

We know we aren’t the only ones with questions about what’s covered by insurance or when we should even bother to file a claim. So we rounded up our questions, asked you for yours, and spoke with Michal Brower, the Florida spokeswoman for State Farm. She, along with the claims department, helped us figure out our next steps.

Because most insurance claims depend on what company and level of coverage you purchase, you need to talk to your insurance agent that you bought the policy from to get into the nitty gritty of your specific situation. But we can help you out with some general answers that will point you in the right direction.

Thanks to readers Alecia, Juliana Ubinas, Kristen Reeves, Mary Johnson for submitting the Qs answered below, and to everyone else who submitted questions.

What does hurricane coverage generally cover? Are there some policies that cover power outages or lost food?

Hurricane insurance is added to your regular homeowners’ policy for an additional cost. Here are a couple things to know about it:

  • It’s supposed to be able to cover the cost to rebuild your entire home in the event it’s destroyed by a hurricane.
  • If you are filing a claim because of Irma, you’re going to pay your hurricane deductible, not your regular homeowners’ insurance deductible.
  • Your hurricane deductible is based on a percentage of your house’s worth. You’ll need to talk to your insurance agent to calculate how much to buy in order to cover the size of your house.
  • Or if your home has a lower value, you might qualify for the smallest deductible available: $500.
  • These hurricane deductibles can apply to homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies, and every policy is going to cover different things based on the amount you select to be your deductible.
  • Though flood insurance is different, hurricane insurance usually covers water and wind damage that was caused by a hurricane.

Editor’s note: This section has been edited to clarify two confusing points about insurance.

What about food that goes bad during a power outage? Can I get covered for that?

Hurricane insurance sometimes covers food spoilage from power loss, but you’ll need to reference your particular policy to see if that includes you.

“One good tip is to take pictures of what’s inside your fridge and freezer so you have documentation for your claim,” Michal said.

A tree branch broke my back car window, and water came in. Will insurance cover all or part of this?

Any damage to your car will be covered by your auto policy. That’s because in Florida, all drivers need a minimum level of auto insurance. To even get on the roads with your license here, you’re required to have $10,000 in personal injury insurance and $10,000 in property damage liability. And you can always add more coverage.

OK, but we know what you’re thinking: Is the minimum enough to make sure you’re covered for any damage related to hurricanes?

Not necessarily. The minimum amount of coverage will cover your car from damage, but only to a certain extent. If your car is damaged by flooding, well, you’ll need to add “comprehensive coverage” to your policy for an additional cost.

I couldn’t wait for insurance to pay for my broken window, so I paid for it myself. Can I get reimbursed?

Yes! Get what you can fixed ASAP and give the paperwork to your insurance representative as soon as it’s completed. This is true for any damage to your spot as well.

My house got broken into after the storm, and I had valuables stolen. Am I still able to file a claim?

This isn’t technically considered damage from the storm, so if you’ve got insurance it’s pretty straightforward – most renters’ and homeowners’ insurance policies cover theft and loss. But it depends on the worth of what you lost whether that goes beyond your deductible.

If something is really, really valuable – consider insuring it separately, Michal said.

Is there any type of renter’s insurance out there that covers costs of evacuation for a natural disaster? (i.e. hotel costs, gas costs, airfare)

Yep, this type of coverage exists. A portion of your renters policy will kick-in and protect you if your home becomes uninhabitable, Michal said.

That’s why it’s especially good to have renters insurance when hurricanes hit (or anytime, really). Protecting or replacing your furniture, belongings, or just your favorite old sweater is on you, not your landlord. Yes, even when a hurricane hits.

Then there’s something called “Additional Living Expenses” that’s included in most standard renters and homeowners’ policies. It will cover renters and homeowners for additional costs of living, (like hotel, food, and airfare expenses) if you can’t live in your home for a while. If you were without power for a week, we bet this coverage is looking pretty good right now. Talk to your rep about adding it if it’s not already in your policy.

When will insurance companies start issuing new policies?

Just before Irma hit, many insurance companies suspended new policies, meaning they weren’t giving out insurance to anyone who didn’t already have it. This is pretty standard for insurance companies to do before, during and after a storm.

Once the storm passes and there’s no longer a watch or warning in the area, insurance companies start writing new policies again, Michal said.

Now that Irma’s come and gone, some people are realizing they do need insurance. If you’re one of those people, you should be able to buy insurance now.

Still have more hurricane insurance Qs? Here’s how to cover your ass if a hurricane hits, which will help you choose the right policy from the get go.