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Picking up the piecesPicking up the pieces

Picking up the pieces
Dealing with the insurance company after damage to your plane

After dealing with the most immediate issues of family and housing, AOPA members in Florida are now starting to come to grips with Hurricane Charley's damage to their aircraft. And the calls are coming in to AOPA's Pilot Information Center (800/USA-AOPA) with questions about dealing with insurance companies and the claims process.

"Some members have complained about insurance adjusters not getting back to them quickly," said Woody Cahall, AOPA vice president of aviation services. "But understand that many of these adjusters are working on a lot of property claims, not just aviation claims."

"Most insurance companies have adjusters in the field right now, so it shouldn't be too long before they get to your aircraft," adds Greg Sterling, executive vice president and general manager of the AOPA Insurance Agency. "If it's been more than a week since your initial call to your agent or insurance company and you still haven't heard anything, then by all means give them a second call. But know all insurance companies want to settle your claim quickly and fairly to minimize the hassles on both ends."

One item of confusion for some owners is how much they will get paid if their aircraft is a total loss. "Most policies are written to an 'insured value,' not a 'replacement value,'" said Sterling. "That means if the aircraft is 'totaled,' you'll get the amount set in the policy limits, not necessarily what the aircraft may have been worth.

"For all aircraft owners, this is a good reminder that you should review the value of your aircraft periodically, and adjust your insurance coverage to reflect what your airplane is worth today."

AOPA's online aircraft valuation service by Vref is a good starting point for determining the worth of an aircraft. Be sure to keep copies of all receipts for upgrades you've done to your airplane, and take photos as well.

If you've been unlucky enough to have had damage done to your aircraft, Sterling suggest the following to steps to help expedite the processing of your claim:

  • Take several photos (digital if possible so they can be e-mailed) of the aircraft, paying special attention to the damaged areas. Also photograph the panel and interior.
  • Protect the aircraft from further damage. If it is not in a secure location, consider removing the more valuable avionics and storing them in a safe place.
  • Have your aircraft logbooks ready and bring them with you when you meet with the adjuster. Bring a photo ID or other proof that you are the owner.
  • Bring your insurance policy along with an extra copy to give your adjuster. These will allow him to quickly verify insured value and deductibles. Bring pictures, receipts, and a Vref valuation to help determine the actual value of the aircraft. If the aircraft is an obvious total loss, also bring the keys and be ready to sign a "Proof of Loss" and "Bill of Sale" over to the insurance company.
  • If the aircraft is damaged slightly and is to be repaired, have at least two estimates prepared from local repair shops if possible to give to the adjuster. Keep copies for yourself.
  • If there's a possible liability situation (for example, your aircraft flipped over into another aircraft because your old tiedown ropes broke), do not admit any fault and make no statements. Gather details on any injured parties or damaged property, including owners' names, addresses, and contact numbers, and give the information to the adjuster. Again, photos of the scene taken as soon after the incident as possible are very helpful.

"Remember, the more information the better," said Sterling. "The insurance companies do want to settle your claim quickly and fairly."

August 26, 2004

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