Beware Hurricane Irene, Beware Insurance Troubles in the Wake

In the wake of disasters, some survivors battle to get their homes restored.

ByABC News
August 26, 2011, 5:17 PM

Aug. 26, 2011 — -- As Americans up and down the eastern seaboard are boarding up windows and hoarding supplies ahead of Hurricane Irene's impending wrath, those who will be hit the hardest may not have considered the storm could be just the beginning of their troubles.

Historically, hurricanes in the U.S. -- like Isabel in 2003 and Katrina in 2005 -- have left homes destroyed and some residents in long, bitter battles with everyone from opportunistic small-time scammers to the federal government to get their lives back to normal.

Today the Consumer Federation of America announced it expects "several hundred thousand" insurance claims to be made in Irene's wake, likely exceeding $6 billion in payouts. To make sure you get what you deserve out of your policy, insurance experts told ABC News what homeowners can do to best protect themselves and their homes when it comes to insurance. Check out their advice below.

To follow Hurricane Irene coverage live with ABC News on Twitter, click here.

Before the Hurricane: Policing Your Policy

"Most people don't realize that their standard homeowners policy does not cover flood insurance," Rogan said. Instead, people must join the federal government's National Flood Insurance Program under a separate policy which can be purchased through their local insurance agent after a 30-day waiting period -- too late for anyone who doesn't have it already.

When a hurricane hits, damage is divided into two categories: wind damage and flood damage. Basic homeowners' insurance protects against wind damage, but only the federal program protects against flood damage.

Beware Home Repair Fraudsters

When homeowners return to damaged homes and start picking up the pieces, often building contractors, plumbers and electricians will offer their services. But not all of these contractors are to be trusted and, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, home repair fraud "increases exponentially following a major storm."

As the Virginia State Police said, "By taking a few simple precautions to guard against the fraudsters, cheaters and crooks who often show up ready to take advantage of someone else's misfortune, citizens can protect themselves."

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