Sandy 2012: Residents deal with insurance companies on damages

A tree down on a house in Alexandria. (Photo: Jeff Goldberg/WJLA)

As people around our area are dealing with damage to their homes following Hurricane Sandy, they're also dealing with insurance companies and finding out who'll pay for what.

Ralph Novoa took ABC7 inside his Alexandria home to show us what was left of his bedroom.

Had he stayed at his home, he probably would have been crushed by the tree that crashed into his bedroom.

"I was devastated," Novoa says. "I had no clue this was going to be this severe."

Crews continued to remove pieces of the tree, costing him thousands of dollars.

"Fortunately I'm in a position where I could afford it and pray that I get totally reimbursed," he says.

Novoa is doing what he is supposed to when it comes to the home insurance claims process.

"If you have to, go out and buy plywood and tarps, keep the receipts because you'll be reimbursed for those," says Bob Rusbuldt, head of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.

He says, in addition to keeping receipts, take pictures of the damage to help the claims process move faster.

Don't make permanent repairs until you file your claim or talk to your insurance agent because until you get the okay you don't know what can be reimbursed.

Rusbuldt says homeowner policies all have hurricane deductibles. And in most states, including Virginia, Maryland and the District, those deductibles are based on the percentage of insured value of the home, typically between one and five percent.

"There's going to be a lot of surprised homeowners when they go to file their claim and they find out that their deductible is $5000, $8000 instead of $500 or $1000," Rusbuldt says.

"At this point I hope it covers everything," Novoa says.

Novoa was told it could take up to three days before an agent could estimate damage. He knows he won't be able to live in his decades-old home for a while. He just wants to get back home.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'd be happy to spend the rest of my life here," Novoa says.