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Speed up the Claims Process After a Tornado Strikes

Follow these seven steps to get paid quickly by your homeowners insurance company.

Editor's note: This story was updated May 21, 2013.

Communities near Oklahoma City are cleaning up after a massive tornado struck the area May 20. As homeowners survey the damage, many may be wondering what steps to take to speed up the insurance claims process so repairs can be made quickly.

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Standard homeowners policies cover wind damage to a home and its contents. Check your coverage, though, to make sure your home is insured for the amount it will cost to rebuild (not the market value) so there won't be any surprises during the claims process. And to make sure the process goes quickly and smoothly, follow these tips from the Insurance Information Institute:

Give your insurance agent a detailed description of the damage to your property. Your agent will report the loss to your insurance company or to a qualified adjuster, who will contact you to arrange an inspection.

Take photographs of the damaged property if it is safe to access the area. Photo documentation will help with the claims process and can assist the adjuster in the investigation.

Prepare a detailed inventory of all damaged or destroyed personal property and make two copies -- one for yourself and one for the adjuster. Your list should include a description of the items, dates of purchase or approximate age, cost at time of purchase and estimated replacement cost.

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Collect canceled checks, invoices, receipts or other papers that will assist the adjuster in obtaining the value of the destroyed property.

Make whatever temporary repairs you can. Cover broken windows and damaged roofs and walls to prevent further destruction. Save the receipts for any supplies and materials you purchase as your insurance company will reimburse you for reasonable expenses in making temporary repairs.

Secure a detailed estimate for permanent repairs to your home or business from a licensed contractor and give it to the adjuster. The estimate should contain the proposed repairs, repair costs and replacement prices.

Keep a record of all expenses, such as hotel and restaurant receipts, if your home is severely damaged and you need to find other accommodations while repairs are being made. Homeowners policies will pay the costs of living away from home if it's been damaged by an insured disaster.

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