JLNO Loves Insurance
Betsy Clement of Gillis, Ellis & Baker
Photo courtesy of Betsy Clement
As the Greater New Orleans region rounds another anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the shadow of the city’s greatest disaster is never far from our collective consciousness. Though the memories of Katrina and the devastation it unleashed are hardly forgettable, remembering key lessons of emergency preparedness and household readiness can be difficult in the rush of everyday life. As we ride out another hurricane season in South Louisiana, it is important to remember how and why we should best prepare for an emergency of any kind — be it fire, flood or hurricane. Fortunately, the JLNO network and Greater New Orleans community is filled with fantastic resources to prepare your home and family before, during and after an emergency.
Pick the Right Agent
As the fourth generation to work in her family’s insurance business, JLNO Active member Betsy Clement of Gillis, Ellis & Baker, Inc., said, “I always tell my clients to pick the jockey, not the horse.” As Betsy explained, New Orleans is a hurricane-prone region that only so many carriers will work in. Because we are in a limited market, all agents have access to the same carriers. Ergo, it is important that you have a knowledgeable agent who will ensure your policy is routed through the best carrier.
Andrew Eagan of Eagan Insurance Photo courtesy of Andrew Eagan
Andrew Eagan, of Eagan Insurance, agreed, “In property and casualty insurance, it is essential to understand all aspects of the industry and how it works. Insurance is in a constant state of change, and an educated staff is our best asset.” Having an agent that you can trust and communicate with openly and easily is a critical first step in the protecting your family’s assets. As Betsy stated, you should think of your insurance agent like you think of your lawyer or accountant.
Understand Your Policies
According to JLNO Sustainer and former President Leah Engelhardt, an attorney with Preis PLC, under Louisiana law insurers are presumed to know and understand the terms of their policies. It is, therefore, vital to review your policies thoroughly with your insurance agent to fully understand what is protected and to what extent.
JLNO Active member Erica Camese-Gallardo, of Charles Glenn Insurance, LLC has made a career of helping her clients by deciphering complex policies and demonstrating how they can be better protected. In one case, mere months after she was able to highlight and correct weaknesses in a client’s homeowners’ policy, the client experienced a fire in her home that would have otherwise been financially devastating.
Left, Leah Engelhardt of Preis PLC Photo courtesy of Leah Engelhardt Right, Erica Camese-Gallardo of Charles Glenn Insurance, LLC. Photo courtesy of Erica Camese-Gallardo
This is especially important in the post-Katrina landscape, where many policies include deductibles that are based on a percent of overall damage, instead of a flat fee. As Betsy explained, a wind policy might have a deductible ranging from 2-5 percent of the overall damage inflicted on a property: if a homeowner has $100,000 of damage, then they will need to ensure they have as much as $5,000 on hand to access their insurance coverage.
Ensure You are Fully Covered
Betsy encourages her clients to think outside the box and consider the specific things that matter to them, then ask themselves if they have coverage for those items. “Your life happens outside of your roof and that’s where you need your insurance to follow you,” Betsy said. To that end, Leah emphasized that many clients don’t understand that movable objects often times aren’t covered in an insurance policy and expensive art, wine, coin, fur, antique and silver collections might not be included in a traditional coverage, requiring additional policies.
In New Orleans, many owners of traditional historic homes should also take the time to consider the expense of replacing and refurbishing unique historic details of their homes. To ensure the cost of rebuilding these unique artisan features is covered, Leah said it is important that your policy is based on an insurance appraisal for rebuilding, instead of a traditional bank appraisal for refinancing or lending purposes. These details should all be discussed thoroughly with your agent.
Prepare Your Emergency Supplies
Erica recommended that in the midst of hurricane season, having an up-to-date emergency kit remains important. In her experience, clients often take advantage of tax-free weekends to stock up on emergency supplies.
Eric Deroche of State Farm Insurance Photo by Carrie Moulder
Eric DeRoche with State Farm Insurance concurred with this point. For Eric, front of mind in preparing for catastrophic events is the need for an emergency evacuation plan and sufficient supplies, including an AM/FM radio.
Inventory and Document your Assets
According to Guy Bumpas IV, a Claims Adjuster with Gillis, Ellis & Baker, Inc., having all insurance documentation, policies and contact numbers on hand is hugely important, and there is no better documentation than pictures. Guy suggested creating a photo inventory of all property and valuable possessions before a claim occurs. These pictures will prove useful for assessments of damage and could act as reference material in the event of a claim.
Guy Bumpas IV of Gillis, Ellis & Baker. Photo courtesy of Guy Bumpas
Leah and Betsy take this a step further: both recommend taking a video inventory of your home, noting the date, time, placement and condition of assets. This can include specific valuables in your home—such as those prized silver, art, or coin collections—as well as the unique features like stained glass windows, tiled fireplaces or intricate woodwork that will take additional effort to replace. This will provide necessary documentation for insurance adjusters, while also assisting craftsmen who might be refurbishing your home.
Additionally, Leah recommends scanning and digitally archiving all important documents and policies to a cloud-based system, like Dropbox, that can be accessed anywhere—even from your smart phone.
Putting Your Life Back Together
While the steps above will ease the transition process after a disaster, it is still important to be proactive and aggressive in the immediate aftermath. In fact, Leah said that it is often the duty of the policy holder to inform their insurance agent of a disaster or impact to their home/property as quickly as possible. It is also your responsibility to work with your insurer to mitigate further damage to your property. If, for instance, you believe your roof has been damaged or blown off, alert your insurer that you will need a tarp: failure to monitor your damaged property could result in unpaid claims for pursuant damage.
You should also feel comfortable meeting with your adjuster and educating them on your home. After all, Leah said, “You’re in the property and you know it: don’t be afraid to let them know.” You should be prepared to work with your adjuster and make sure your claim is fully met.