Insurance companies jump into action
Rod Thorstad reshingled his roof two years ago, so when a poplar tree fell on his garage Sunday night during a severe storm, he was understandably frustrated.
But he called American Family Insurance's 24-hour customer line right away to report his claim, and local claims adjuster Ron Lauer was at his house Wednesday morning to survey the damage.
After surveying the damage, Lauer explained what damage was covered by Thorstad's policy and was able to work out an estimate on-site, as well as provide Thorstad with an initial payment to begin repairing his roof.
Thorstad has been living in his home at 15895 Blue Heron Dr. since 1995, and he hasn't seen damage like the kind caused by Sunday's storm. A tree did fall on the corner of his garage, but "things could have always been worse."
He was home during the storm and saw trees falling in the woods near his home, then heard the crash of the tree falling on his garage. He called his insurance company "right away," and was able to get Lauer out for an assessment a few days later.
After a severe storm, the first concern is safety and making sure everyone involved is secure, Lauer said. Then, take a brief scope of the damage to get an idea of it and report a claim to your insurance company. Temporary repairs should follow, as well as an appointment with a claims adjuster.
Thanks to smartphones, most homeowners have ready access to a good camera, so they should take plenty of photos after a storm to document the damage, Lauer said.
"Take before and after photos," Lauer said. "Because a lot of times people will remove the tree before I have an opportunity to get out here."
If a storm causes damage to your home, emergency repairs should be taken care of first, Lauer said, by the homeowner if possible. But before starting repairs, a homeowner should take photos of the damage to document it for the insurance claim.
"We like to get the temporary repairs completed, obviously because it prevents further damage," Lauer said.
As far as Thorstad's situation goes, he handled everything "perfectly," Lauer said.
"He did what he could as far as removing the tree, prevent any further damages," Lauer said. "He's tarped it, to prevent any further damages."
After a severe weather event or disaster, people want to get back to normal as soon as possible, and insurance companies help people do that, Lauer said.
"We're here to take care of the customer and do the best job we can and service the customer as quickly as possible," Lauer said.
Severe storms like the one that hit the Brainerd Lakes area are typically covered in a standard home insurance policy, Lauer said.
"If a tree lands on your house and causes damage to your house, you've got a covered loss," Lauer said.
Policies cover removing the fallen tree from the residence as well as a debris removal allowance, Lauer said.
Lauer said he understands his job means he encounters people at what can be an emotional time, so he empathizes with them and tries to comfort them.
"People go through a traumatic experience," Lauer said. "And we're here to help them through that and we do the best job that we can in providing fast, fair and friendly service."
Trees that fall on a property and don't damage a building or structure aren't covered by a home insurance policy, Lauer said.
Lauer has been adjusting claims for American Family Insurance for 23 years, so he's seen quite a bit of damage, but every day is still unique.
"Every day can be a new challenge," Lauer said. "You might see something that you haven't seen before, so it keeps the job interesting."
On Monday, Linda Wagener with American Family Insurance said the company has about 240 claims filed from the area and expects the number to reach 1,500 eventually.
State Farm has also announced it is mobilizing its area claims adjusters to handle the increased number of claims as a result of the storm.