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10 Tips for Recovering After Disaster Strikes

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Guest blogger Robert Howe, a New York real estate attorney, discusses how to handle the unexpected.

Uncertain. Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Such is life. Often we hear stories of tragic circumstances, disasters, and catastrophes doing serious harm to our lives or those around us. While we can never prevent life’s unexpected incidents from happening we can do our best to be prepared for what happens next. As long as you and your family are safe you can move on. Remember, everything is replaceable. Once that is established we need to deal with the financial and legal consequences after disaster strikes.

Here are some best practices that helped me and my family when we recently lost our home to a fire:

1. Attempt to stay calm. You have just been involved in hopefully a once in a lifetime event. Try to visualize your next moves as beginning a marathon and not a sprint.

2. Prioritize what needs to get done relatively quickly and what can wait some time.

3. Take a quick inventory of what you have with you and what you lost. Identification, medicine, keys, wallets, eye glasses and phones may be among the missing.

4. Contact your insurance company immediately. The faster the adjuster arrives, the faster you will be on the road to recovery. Many times the adjuster will issue you a check on the spot to help you get through the next few days. In any event, you are under an obligation to make a claim in a prompt manner.

5. Try to retrieve your identification papers.  Driver’s licenses, birth certificates and passports are essential to proving your identity. Your local legislators may be helpful to you in re-creating your identity papers.

6. If people offer to help, gift cards are the most useful and flexible items to receive.

7. Arrange for temporary housing either with family member or with the insurance company’s help. You will need a base of operations to work from.

8. Think about your short term finances. Expenses will mount up quickly. Replace your bank and credit cards.

9. Review your insurance policy to understand the types of coverage you are entitled to.

10. Resist offers from contractors and public adjusters to represent you. They can be retained at any time in the future when you are thinking clearly and able to assess the situation.

I hope you never have to employ these but if you do maybe some of this will be useful in getting through a difficult time.

About the Author

A Brooklyn native, Robert Howe graduated from Hamilton College and Brooklyn Law School before opening his law practice in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, NY in 1981. He specializes in real estate law and is a member of the New York State Bar Association, Bay Ridge Lawyers Association, Kings County Family Court Panel, Kings County Criminal Court Panel, and the Pennsylvania Bar. Additionally,  he is the President of the Merchants of Third Avenue in Bay Ridge. He hosts his own online radio show on real estate, small business, and community topics called Howe’s New York and in 2012 was named a Rocket Lawyer Attorney of the Year. He resides in Brooklyn with his wife Diana, in the same Bay Ridge neighborhood they raised their four children Caitlin, Siobhan, Brianne, and Trevor.
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