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Residents Flood Insurance Companies with Irene Questions

Residents wonder what, if anything, is covered by their insurance.

The impact left by Tropical Storm Irene was felt by residents up and down the Eastern Seaboard who were impacted by Irene's powerful 50-70 mph winds.

Residents felt the wrath of Irene, which left more than one million people without power in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and left the two states with damaged homes, empty refrigerators and a mountain of unexpected bills.  

Downed trees and other wind damage could total about $5 billion in personal claims, according to the Consumer Federation of America.

Now, residents want answers on how to regain some of the funds lost from renting hotel rooms, throwing out spoiled food and replacing their homes and boats. Some wanted those answers as early as Sunday morning according to Richard DiGiacomo of in Attleboro. 

Insurers are allowed to include hurricane deductibles in homeowners policies, but the amounts apply to damage caused by the hurricane and range between 1 and 5 percent, DiGiacomo said. 

For example, a policyholder whose home is insured for $200,000 with a 1 percent hurricane deductible would have to pay the first $2,000 to repair hurricane damage.

To make things easier DiGiacomo took to the Web and posted as much information about Hurricane-related questions on the company's website and Facebook page.

Arbella Insurance, which has offices in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, suggests residents take photos of the damage from Irene as quickly and safely as possible. It suggests homeowners keep all receipts from expenses incurred to protect the home or property from further damage. Having photos and receipts will expedite the claims process, according to the company. 

The Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation had several suggestions on how to make filing a claim easier after a storm.

Along with Arbella's suggestion to photograph a home or business, the RI Dept. of Business Regulation suggest videotaping each room and sending the photos and video to the insurance company and to a friend or family member outside of the area hit by the hurricane.

Residents are advised to avoid any cleanup or repairs until the home or business owner has contacted the insurance company and an insurance representative has inspected the damage and an agreement has been made on the cost of the damage. 

Additionally, the Consumer Federation of America suggests residents ask the person who arrives to survey the damage whether they are an employee of the insurance company or an independent adjuster hired by them.

If it is an independent adjuster, the agency suggests residents secure the name of the actual company where the adjuster is sending the information and whether they are authorized to make claim decisions and payments on behalf of their insurance company.

Timing is everything because there is a difference when it relates to hurricane policy deductibles and regular deductibles, according to Michael Kehew of , an All State insurance agency in Middletown. 

“It depends how long the official Hurricane Warning lasts for," Kehew said. "Anything that happens from the warning forward to 24 hours after, is covered under the hurricane deductible."

“Considering Irene was officially a tropical storm when she arrived, any damage would go under the regular deductible," Kehew said. "Most people had less damage in this storm than what their regular deductible cost, so there aren’t many claims this time around."

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