HOUSTON – When Watson Grinding & Manufacturing exploded after a propylene leak Thursday morning, homes shook and windows rattled up to 20 miles away.
Dozens of homes and businesses closer to the scene are left with thousands of dollars in damage. Damages range from broken windows to cracked walls and foundations to ceilings that caved in.
Consumer expert Amy Davis talked with insurance experts from the Insurance Expert Network to find out what you need to do if your home was damaged.
1) Document everything first.
Take pictures of your damage. Wide, medium and tight shots. Make sure your images are clear. Take notes of all of the damage; and continue to take notes every step of this process. When you make a phone call, write down the date, time and person you spoke with. You need to be organized. Jim Hughes said you need to act as if you don’t have insurance.
2) Protect your property.
Make sure your home is protected from further damage. If you have missing windows that can not be replaced today, board them up.
3) Call your insurance company to do one of 2 things:
A- File a claim and make an appointment for an adjustor to come assess the damages. You should be able to find the instructions for how to file a claim in the first few pages of your insurance policy. If you can’t find it, call your agent for help. Be prepared to pay your deductible. Your insurance company will likely go after Watson Grinding & Manufacturing to get all of the money back they paid for repairing your home. You should also get your deductible refunded in this case.
B- Put your insurance company on notice that your home was damaged, but let them know you are filing a claim with Watson directly. You would not have to pay a deductible in this instance; but you may be left waiting longer for repairs. In instances of mass damage like this one, the company responsible for the damage will set up a hotline for consumers to call and file their claims. You can also document everything (see step one), pay out of pocket for repairs, and then turn your receipts and invoices over to Watson when you file your claim for reimbursement.
Pros & cons of filing with homeowner’s insurance versus filing with Watson Grinding & Manufacturing:
- Your homeowner’s policy likely covers replacement cost. Lou Fey says almost all of them do. This means that your insurance company should not factor your home’s depreciation into the money you will receive for repairs.
- Watson Grinding & Manufacturing is entitled to depreciate your damages. Fey says when incidents like this happen with a lot of victims, companies usually don't quibble on small repairs like replacing windows. They may even take your claim by phone, ask you to mail in your receipts and send you a check without involving an adjustor.
Should you hire a public insurance adjuster?
You can hire a public insurance adjuster at any time. Most adjustors will take 10% of your total claim. If you don’t want to deal with any part of the claims process, you can hire an adjuster from the beginning, or you can wait to find out if your insurance company offers you what you need to repair your home. If they deny your claim, or offer an amount that your feel is too low, you can hire a public adjuster to dispute it at that time. Cal Spoon, a public insurance adjuster and owner of InsuranceBusters.net said there is a 2 year statute of limitations after you receive your offer from your insurance company to dispute it with a public insurance adjuster. To do business in Texas, public insurance adjusters must be licensed with the Texas Department of Insurance. You can search for licensed adjusters online here.