Documenting Insurance Claims – A Very Good Idea

“The insured is our enemy; depreciation our friend.” On the first day of class at the most prestigious school of insurance in the country, a student wrote this phrase on the chalkboard. Everything was erased by the instructor at the end each day except for that phrase. Many insurance holders who have legitimate claims and are honest and open-minded have discovered that their insurance company won’t pay them when it comes time. Most, even if they try to fight the company, get the short end. Insurance companies exist to make money and will sometimes deny legitimate claims. Even if your insurance is “good”, it’s important to exercise caution in any dispute about a claim.

Public adjusters are often contacted by policyholders who have a claim dispute. The most common complaint is “the adjuster lied” My advice? Don’t believe anything an insurance adjuster says or promises you, until you have it written down or taped. You may feel like you are being set-up. Insurance agents will often delay telling you “bad news” until they have his file documented.

It is important to keep a written record. When you are creating your file, pay attention to adjusters. Send all correspondence to us by fax. A handwritten note on notebook paper can be better than nothing. The adjuster has a record of the meeting and is legally obligated to answer any questions or concerns.

California gives adjusters 14 days to respond. The regulations are the same in most states. Google “[your state] Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations” to find the relevant regulations. You can also visit, or the website of your state’s insurance department. Send your faxes to an office supply shop and they will keep them for you. What’s the bottom line? It is less likely that you will be cheated if your adjuster must put his denials in writing.

If you are in the middle of a dispute, make sure to screen your calls. Install an answering machine. Do not answer the phone unless you are certain who it is. If you’re expecting a major decision, don’t answer the phone if an adjuster calls. If the adjuster calls, leave a message on your answering system and copy the tape recording. An intelligent adjuster might prefer to call you rather than write. You now have a legal recording of the conversation that you can use later to bring pressure on the adjuster or to provide evidence in court. If you’re talking to him on the phone, you can’t record him without his consent. I have never received permission from an adjuster or supervisor to turn on the recorder. While adjusters are fine with tape recording you, many will ask you to put away your tape recorder. In case of an emergency, it is important to keep a record. Writing down your requests can help an adjuster to think twice about denying you. My mentor once said, “Give an adjuster enough rope and he’ll hang himself.”

You should follow up on important conversations where an adjuster makes promises and you are concerned that he will not keep them or put them in writing. It is possible to interpret the court’s interpretation of the promise made by the adjuster if he fails to reply.

These tips can help you in case an insurance company denies your legitimate claim. This happens more often than you might think.