The worst of Hurricane Sandy’s wrath may be over, but the recovery process is only just beginning. If you’ve been the victim of any kind of damage due to Hurricane Sandy and are planning on filing an insurance claim, the next 24 hours are vital. Since insurers handle claims on a first-come, first-serve basis, your Hurricane Sandy insurance claim could end up at the bottom of a thick pile if you don’t act soon. Here’s what you should know.

File Your Hurricane Sandy Insurance Claim ASAP

The first thing you need to do is stop repairing for a minute and start photographing. Take a moment to snap broad views of the damage. The more documentation the better.

After you’ve made temporary repairs (boarding windows, stopping leaks, pumping water), get the camera again. List and photograph everything damaged by the storm. Be sure to include proof of purchase everywhere you can. If you don’t, write down every item’s approximate value. For any items swept/blown away by the flood, proof of purchase or a photo of it could help your claim.

Do not make permanent repairs. Call your insurance provider, ask for everything you could possibly need to file your claim (forms, documents, other info), and schedule an agent to inspect the damage. If you make repairs before inspection, you risk your claim.

Be thorough with your documentation. They’re unlikely to take your claim until all paperwork is complete/filed.

Negotiate. “If there is a disagreement about the claim,” the National Association of Insurance Commissioners says via BusinessInsider. “ask the company for the specific language in the policy in question and determine why you and the company interpret your policy differently. If you believe you are being treated unfairly, contact your state insurance department.”

For more resources, check out The National Association of Insurance CommissionersConsumer Federation of America or