TDCI Shares Tips on Filing Insurance Claims, Generator Safety, Hiring Contractors, and Avoiding Scammers After Storms

Department Reminds Consumers to Promptly File Claims, Complaints
Tuesday, December 14, 2021 | 09:00am

NASHVILLE – As recovery continues from the deadly storms that struck Tennessee communities on Dec. 10 and Dec. 11, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) is sharing important consumer information to aid Tennesseans when filing their insurance claims, staying safe when using fuel-powered generators, selecting contractors, and avoiding scammers who might seek to prey on storm victims.

The deadly storms, which began Friday, Dec. 10 and lasted through Saturday, Dec. 11, caused fatalities, damaged structures in more than 20 Tennessee counties, and disrupted power and water utility operations.

“On behalf of our entire department, I extend my heartfelt condolences to all of those who may have lost loved ones during the storms, and I thank the first responders and emergency personnel who have assisted Tennesseans during this tragedy,” said TDCI Commissioner Carter Lawrence. “Tennesseans have demonstrated their resiliency in the wake of recent natural disasters, and I know that we will all work together again to help our friends and neighbors recover and rebuild.”

The Crisis Cleanup Line can be reached at  800-451-1954. It is active and accepting calls from Tennesseans in affected counties who need volunteer assistance with cleaning up debris after the storms.

Tennessee consumers who have questions about filing a claim or about their insurance policy can contact TDCI’s team at (615) 741-2218 or 800-342-4029.

Said TDCI Assistant Commissioner Bill Huddleston: “Our team is committed to ensuring that claims are being adjusted and paid appropriately and in a timely manner. Consumers who feel as if they have been unfairly denied a claim should contact our team and immediately file a complaint.”

The following tips come from TDCI’s Insurance Division, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office, and TDCI’s Division of Regulatory Boards.

Filing Insurance Claims:

  • File your claim as soon as possible. Call your insurance company or agent with your policy number and other relevant information. Your policy may require that you make the notification within a certain time frame.
  • If your home is damaged to the extent that you cannot live there, ask your insurance company if you have coverage for additional living expenses.
  • Document the damages by taking photographs or video of any damage for each instance your home or property was damaged.
  • Make the temporary repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property (cover broken windows, leaking roofs, and damaged walls).
  • Never have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs. Be prepared to provide your claims adjuster with records of improvements you made prior to the damage.
  • If you feel that you are unfairly denied a claim by your insurance company, please file a complaint with TDCI.
  • Never sign over your insurance check for rebuilding. Do not pay with cash or pay the total charges before the work is complete.
  • Only conduct business with licensed insurance professionals. To verify an insurance license, visit the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' searchable database.

Generator Safety, Avoiding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

With the loss of power due to the storms, many people may rely on portable fuel-powered generators, which are potential sources of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas created when natural fuels burn incompletely. Breathing high levels of carbon monoxide can cause loss of    consciousness or even death. Never use a gas generator inside a home, garage, carport basement, crawlspace, or outside near a window, door, or vent.

A generator should only be used outdoors and at least 15 feet away from buildings. It is dangerous to use a gas or kerosene heater inside a home or other buildings.

Tips For Hiring Contractors:

  • Remember that a contractor’s license is required before bidding or price negotiations when the total cost of the project is $25,000 or more.
  • For work that costs less than $25,000, check with your local government’s building codes office to confirm whether a contractor needs a state license or a local license to perform home improvement, electrical, plumbing, or HVAC work, as well as their permit requirements for inspections.
  • Before selecting a professional, ensure they are properly licensed for the project through our Public Search feature.
  • Get several bids and check references before committing to a contractor.
  • Generally, do not pay more than one-third of the cost upfront and make sure you have the terms of payment in writing.
  • If you are dealing with a company or person who promises to removedebris from your property, ask them to list the services they will provide in writing.
  • Ensure that your contract provides for you to make an inspection and approve the work before making the final payment.
  • Tennessee's felony theft law covers consumers whenever a contractor takes money and fails to perform work within 90 days. Pursuant to T.C.A. 39-14-105, consumers may contact local law enforcement and file charges to prosecute the contractor for theft.
  • Consumers can check the complaint and disciplinary history of a contractor by contacting the Board for Licensing Contractors by phone at 800 544-7693 or (615) 741-8307 or emailing our team at To file a complaint, visit us online here.

Avoiding Severe Weather Contractor Scams:

While many people seek to help after severe weather, there is also an increased risk for scammers and fraud. Consumers should learn the red flags of potential scammers.

  • No federal or state government agency charges application fees for services or benefits.
  • Be wary of contractors selling repairs door-to-door, especially when they ask to receive payment upfront or offer deep discounts. Don’t be pressured to make a decision on the spot or to sign anything without having enough time to review it.
  • Con artists will often pose as government employees, insurance adjusters, law enforcement officials, or bank employees in order to get your personal or financial information.               
  • Scammers may offer fake home rental listings. If the offer sounds too good to be true or the property owner can’t show you the property beforehand, it’s a bad sign.