CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The funny thing about insurance is you don't think about it until you need it.

And that's the worst possible time to think about what coverage you have or should have had before disaster strikes.

David Stollmack lives in Charlotte. He lived through Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the storm no one thought would hit Charlotte.

"When we went to bed, all the forecasts were for the storm to keep moving up the coast. We thought we might get a little wind," Stollmack said.

Charlotte got a little wind, all right. Hugo moved inland and reached the Queen City as a Category 1 hurricane. David's house, like so many others, had extensive damaged, mostly from falling trees.

"A big tall oak tree and a major part of it fell over," Stollmack explained.

His story is one of the thousands who had significant damage from the storm. He had insurance and everything was later repaired, but that's not always the case. And unfortunately, it's usually the fault of the insured, not the insurer.

Gary Griffith is with Nationwide Insurance in south Charlotte. He says some of the biggest issues are people not inspecting hazards around their homes before storms and people not really knowing or understanding their coverage because they only look at their policy at certain times.

"Usually at renewal when they get their bill, but they should really be looking at their policy, or at the very least, calling their agent to ask questions," Griffith said. "As we know, a hurricane could happen."

So, here are three quick things to do:

  • Look at your deductible and understand your out-of-pocket costs should you need to make a claim.
  • Walk your house and make a video, or at the very least, still photos of what you have. It makes the claim process a lot easier and faster.
  • Understand that flood insurance is a separate policy from your homeowners. If you live in a flood zone, you probably already know, but if you have a creek or river nearby, investigate your exposure to rising water. They call it a 100-year flood for a reason. You don't want it happening when you live there.

Take it from someone who's been through it, don't put this task off.

One big thing to remember about policy writing. When a storm is near North Carolina or South Carolina, insurance companies by law cannot write new policies or change existing ones. That is why it's important to make changes before a storm is on the radar.