Office of the Commissioner of Insurance: Warns residents in western Wisconsin to avoid “storm chasers”

Madison, Wis. — Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable is urging Western Wisconsinites impacted by severe weather this week to protect themselves from “storm chasers.” This warning follows a disaster declaration for Chippewa, Clark, and Dunn counties issued by Gov. Tony Evers Tuesday, September 25.

“Severe weather events like the tornadoes in Western Wisconsin this week leave communities with a long and often expensive recovery,” said Commissioner Afable. “Unfortunately, what we know is that the recovery process is a vulnerable time for many residents. Scammers or ‘storm chasers’ may be workers unlicensed to perform repairs or may try to require upfront payments but never do the work. It is important to slow down and ask the questions that will help protect you and your family. Working with your insurance company is a good way to make sure you avoid signing a contract or making a payment to a bad actor.

Afable continued, “Now is a good time for all Wisconsinites to make sure they have the right insurance coverage. Reach out to your insurance company or agent to make sure you understand your policy and ask how you might be protected in the event of a severe weather event.”

The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance released guidance for residents impacted by severe weather earlier this week, including:

Notify your insurance agent or insurance company as soon as possible to begin filing a claim. Make sure you provide a telephone number and/or e-mail address where you can be reached.
Make a detailed list of all damaged or lost personal property. It helps to take photos of the damage. Your adjuster will need evidence of the damaged items.
Do not throw out any damaged property without your adjuster’s agreement. If local officials require the disposal of damaged items before the insurance company’s claims adjuster can inspect the items, take photos and keep samples of damaged items for the adjuster (e.g., cut swatches from carpeting, curtains, and chairs).
Separate damaged items from undamaged items.

Be careful to avoid scams. Take your time, do your homework, and check that all contractors you encounter are licensed and legitimate. If you feel pressure to sign a contract quickly, take a step back and investigate. Rebuilding your home or business and repairing your car is important, but quickly signing a contract with an unscrupulous party can make a bad situation worse.

If you have water damage, check your policy. Most homeowner’s policies do not cover flooding or seepage through the foundation, which are usually covered under separate flood insurance policies. Contact your insurance company again if an adjuster has not been assigned to you within several days.

Commissioner Afable also suggested consumers check the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) website for numerous helpful publications, including the “Consumers Guide to Homeowner’s Insurance” (https://oci.wi.gov/Documents/Consumers/PI-015.pdf) and “Personal Property Home Inventory” (https://oci.wi.gov/Documents/Consumers/PI-224.pdf), which is a worksheet for itemizing personal property. He noted there are specific insurance publications for small business owners, mobile home insurance, condominium insurance, and information on how to settle property insurance claims. All of these publications can be found on the OCI website at https://oci.wi.gov/Pages/Consumers/ConsumerPublications.aspx.

You can contact OCI with questions at 1-800-236-8517 or [email protected] If you need to file a complaint, it can be done online via OCI’s website (oci.wi.gov). Additionally, you can obtain a complaint form by calling 1-800-236-8517 or by printing a form from OCI’s website.

OCI also offers several publications that help to sort through the claims process, including Settling Property Insurance Claims (https://oci.wi.gov/Documents/Consumers/PI-084.pdf) and Documents and Records (https://oci.wi.gov/Documents/Consumers/PI-223.pdf), which provides a list of documents that will need to be replaced if they have been destroyed and whom to contact for replacement. All publications are available on OCI’s website and can be ordered free from the agency.

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