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After the tornado: What to do about insurance, documents, taxesAfter the tornado: What to do about insurance, documents, taxes

Steps to manage the aftermath and begin recovery.

Mary Hightower

April 10, 2023

3 Min Read
Storm Damage
Cleanup after a storm event takes a toll, but managing the paperwork can be a real chore.Brent Murphree

At a Glance

  • Contacting insurance agent is first step
  • Be wary of scam artists
  • Taxpayers can file for an extension

One of the most difficult parts of disaster recovery is managing the paperwork that follows.

Laura Hendrix, an extension personal finance expert for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, offers this checklist to those trying to figure out what they need to do:

  • Contact your insurance agent — “One of the first things for people with losses or damage is to contact their insurance agent,” she said. “Procedures will vary by company and policy.”

  • Taxes — The tax filing deadline this year is Monday, April 18. Even as you navigate this disaster, “taxpayers can file for an extension,” Hendrix said. “Any losses would fall under next year’s taxes.” The Internal Revenue Service has a page dedicated to taxes and disasters.

  • Replacing lost papers — “Documents such as birth certificates, insurance policies and health records may be lost or destroyed,” she said. “Prompt replacement prevents delays when the documents are needed.”

  • Insurance Policy — Contact your insurance agency for a copy of your policy. If you have any trouble locating the company, contact the Arkansas Department of Insurance at 501-371-2600 or

  • Social Security Card — Order a replacement social security card online at gov/myaccount or visit your nearest Social Security office.

  • Driver’s License — To replace a driver’s license, visit your local revenue office.

  • Property Deeds — Contact your local Circuit Clerk’s office for property deeds.

  • Passport — Visit your local Postal Service office for a new passport.

  • Birth certificate, death, marriage, and divorce certificates — Visit the Arkansas Department of Health’s websites for Certificates & Records or Vital Records.

The American Red Cross also advises victims of natural disasters to:

  • Stop unnecessary expenses — For example, if your home is uninhabitable, notify the utility company and other service companies, such as phone, internet and cable companies, so they can stop billing immediately.

  • Assess your funds — Estimate the amount of income and emergency savings you have to pay bills while you recover from the disaster, then prioritize your bills. Paying your insurance premiums and rent or mortgage should be your top priority.

  • Talk to your creditors — Ask creditors for more time to pay. Most creditors will be willing to work with you, especially if you notify them before a payment is due.

Find additional information from Hendrix:

Find other disaster recovery information:

Beware disaster scammers

Immediately after Friday’s storms, Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin said, “Unfortunately, unscrupulous people will already be preying upon our neighbors with offers of quick repair jobs. Arkansans should call their insurance company first and not be pressured into paying a quick deposit to a person who will take off with their money just as quickly.”

Griffin said that insurers will honor their policies and “there is no need to rush or be pressured to sign a contracting agreement.”

Without time pressure, Arkansans should:

  • Obtain more than one estimate.

  • Demand references from contractors and check them.

  • Never let a contractor pressure you into hiring them.

  • Never sign a contract with blanks “to be filled in later.”

  • Never pay a contractor in full until the work is finished.

  • Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company.

  • Be sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance company.

Arkansans who want to report concerns can contact the attorney general’s office at 800-482-8982.

Source: University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture

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