As recent natural disasters have taught us, we all need to give our insurance policies a checkup:
If you're in a flood zone or an area susceptible to hurricanes and strong storms, you need flood insurance: Damage from rising water isn't covered in standard policies. Ask your agent to help, and look into the federal policy offered by FEMA (www.floodsmart.gov). If you want your flood insurance to cover the contents of your home, you'll have to pay a higher premium. It's worth it.
Understand your replacement coverage. Make sure you know what it would really cost if you needed to buy or build a comparable home, given today's costs, and adjust your policy accordingly. Ask what you'd be paid if you decided to move to a different location.
Your possessions should also be insured for replacement cost. "Actual value" coverage might leave you dangerously underinsured; you'd be paid only the depreciated value of your lost items.
If you find yourself at odds with your insurer, don't give up. Ask for a detailed, written account of why your claim was denied, and challenge those findings. If that doesn't work, contact your state insurance department (look on www.naic.org) and file a complaint. For a loss resulting from a massive disaster, find others who were denied claims from your carrier and fight together—there's power in numbers.
Printed from Oprah.com on Tuesday, December 10, 2013