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How to Protect your Assets during a Natural Disaster


With hurricane season in full effect, an asset protection specialist gives his advice on protecting your professional assets in the event of a natural disaster.

Recent hurricanes Irma and Harvey illustrate the need for doctors to have risk and crisis management plans. Surviving the storm is just the first step, getting back to business and rebuilding requires that you have a battle plan for getting reimbursed.

Asset protection includes being adequately insured for both liability and loss, including issues like property damage, flooding, business interruption and many other issues outside the scope of your medical malpractice and general liability policies. Make sure you have an experienced agent that is knowledgeable and informed about all the options you should consider, not just the specialty liability insurance you must have, but also for various kinds loss.

Make sure your property damage dollar limits will properly cover the actual value of the repairing and/or replacing the building and its contents and be educated on important policy details like the difference between a policy that provides replacement cost (the dollar amount needed to replace a damaged item with one of similar kind and quality, without depreciation) and one that only covers cash value (which pays only the amount needed to replace the item at its current market value).

It's also wise to document the contents and condition of your business property (and residence) under blue skies when it's in perfect condition so you have proof in the event of storm damage, theft, etc. When you have an actual loss, carefully document the damage to your structure and inventory any damaged items you can immediately spot, including medical equipment, fixtures, signage, supplies and office equipment. Be sure to note cancelled appointments and other losses of revenue opportunities related to the damage. Write it down at the time so your recollection is fresh and accurate, and support that writing with pictures, video, etc. Your cellphone allows you to do this at all times. Finally, don't forget to back up your phone by saving to the cloud, downloading it, or emailing it to yourself, in a crisis like a flood your phone could easily be lost or damaged.

Insurance policies typically require that you reasonably mitigate your damage, including covering damage in roof, walls, doors, and windows with temporary shelter. Insurers can exclude further damage to your property if you don't take reasonable steps to secure the property after it comes to your attention. In many cases, your insurer will reimburse you for costs reasonably incurred to protect your property, so keep receipts for all expenses. If possible, hold off making permanent repairs and major expenses until your adjuster gets involved.

Report the damage to your insurance agent or representative as soon as possible and get a claim number issued immediately. Keep a written log of all phone calls and correspondence, contact info on everyone you deal with, and keep copies of all correspondence sent to your insurance company. Some insurance companies are an intentionally confusing maze of dead-end fax and phone numbers so when they give you contact information, try to get it in writing.

Some insurers use a proof of loss form or may have you make a verbal statement on the phone that may be recorded. Don't give opinions on the scope of the damage, costs, etc., it will likely be used against you later if you do. Report the damage you've been able to see, any remediation you've had to perform, and any help you need with further remediation. Inform them you've documented the claim with a list and photos. Carefully check the adjuster's inspection report against your own list to make sure they haven't omitted any losses. If the adjuster is unable to do a full inspection due to time constraints they may have to scope the loss.

If your carrier delays your claim, acts in bad faith, does not timely respond, or fails to make you an adequate settlement offer, report the issue to a claims manager and support your case with documentation, estimates, and the photos you took. Know your specific rights under the laws of the insurance codes of your state, they can be found on every state's department of insurance website and outline your legal rights and the insurance company's obligations. 

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