The winds have died down, the rain or snow has ended and the earth has stopped shaking. You look around at the mess around you and you think: now what? How do I pick up the pieces of my life and move on after this horrific natural disaster? There is no doubt that getting back to normal will take some hard work and perseverance. However, this arduous task can be made easier if you follow each of the steps set forth below.
After a disaster you should:
- Take Safety Precautions: including not using your water which may be contaminated and being mindful that your home, trees and the other structures on your property may be unstable.
- Seek Medical Attention: if you have been hurt then it is important to seek prompt medical attention. Make sure that emergency services are able to get to your house. If they are unable to access your home then ask the police to provide you with a safe alternate route, remembering that power lines may be down and bridges may be destroyed so that your usual route to the hospital may be inaccessible.
- Safeguard Your Property: Gather up your most prized possessions and find a safe place to keep them. If your home is damaged and easy to access through broken windows, walls or doors then thieves may try to take advantage of the situation. Secure your property the best that you can with temporary materials.
- Contact Your Insurance Company: Your homeowners or renters insurance may or may not cover the particular natural disaster which hit your area. Contact your insurance company to discuss your policy and file your claim.
- Contact Your Creditors: It is important to contact your creditors to let them know what happened and to provide them with a temporary address if you are unable to receive mail at your usual residence.
- Repair or Relocate: Finally, once your immediate needs have been met you are going to have to decide if you should repair your home or relocate to a new dwelling.
While this list may seem simple enough, there are many places where things can go wrong. Your insurance company may give you a difficult time about providing coverage you according to the terms of your contract. Looters may try to take advantage of your misfortune. The contractor that you hire to repair your home may breach his or her contract with you or your creditors may be unwilling to work out reasonable payment plans with you. If any of these situations arise, or any other dispute arises out of a natural disaster then it is important to seek the advice of counsel.
Your attorney can help you sort through all of the legal issues associated with the catastrophe and take some of the burden off of your shoulders. While we all hope to miss the tornado, blizzard, hurricane or earthquake that changes our life, some of us will not be so lucky and will need the guidance provided above about how to proceed when catastrophe strikes.
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