As New Jersey attempts to recover from one of the worst natural disasters in American history, insurers will be put to the test. The better weather over the past couple of days has allowed homeowners some time to notice and examine the damage to their property caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Devastation in Bay Head (Tony Bartone)

"This is the time for insurers to fulfill their promise to policyholders," said Jim Whittle, American Insurance Association's assistant general counsel.

Allstate New Jersey Insurance Company established a 24-hour phone line for policyholders looking to make a claim (1-800-54-STORM). Damage can also be reported online, which may only be an option for those who have not lost power.

"The best bet is to call as soon as you see that you have damage, and get into the system as soon as possible," explained Allstate Spokesman Danny Jovic.

He also advised New Jersey residents to take note of their policy numbers and create an updated home inventory by walking through their house with a video recorder or camera.

State Farm Spokesman Dave Phillips added, "If you need to make temporary repairs to help further prevent damage to your home, save receipts."

In many cases, those repairs are reimbursable.

State Farm policyholders can file their claims by calling 1-800-SF-CLAIM.

Jovic and Phillips agreed it is too soon to estimate how long the entire process may take from claim to repair. The most severe cases will likely be addressed first.

Phillips noted, "In a lot of instances, some of the areas are inaccessible. Even if you do have minor damage, getting to you may be an issue."

AIA offers the following tips for homeowners following a hurricane:

  • Contact your insurer immediately after the storm to report all loses and damages.
  • Keep all recovery-related receipts including meals and lodging, which might be covered under the "additional living expenses" portion of your insurance policy.
  • Prepare a list of all damaged property, and if possible, photograph or video the damaged items.
  • Return claim forms as soon as possible to your insurer.
  • Work closely and stay in regular touch with your insurer to get the best and quickest results.
  • Build stronger next time and ask your contractor about adding features that would increase the building's disaster-resistance.
  • Ask questions if you are unclear about your policy.