Perhaps it’s a loud bang overhead. It could be shattering glass. Perhaps it’s water dripping from the ceiling of your kitchen.
For a homeowner, any of these sounds might mean that you’re about to get acquainted with the home insurance claims process. You can’t wait for your insurance company pay you. To ensure that your claim is resolved, you will need to quickly report it to the insurance company. Keep track of all expenses and contact the insurer.
Notify the authorities immediately.
You can save money by reporting a homeowners insurance claim immediately. Your insurer will assign you a claim number and send an adjuster out to assess the damage. Shortly after, the insurance company will issue an initial payment — minus your deductible — to cover the estimated cost of repairs.
Storm damage can cause storm damage to other properties in the same area as yours. This means that there will be more claims, and therefore, more demand for your insurance. You can submit a claim right away to get your claim processed quickly.
Sometimes you might need to wait to file a claim, such as if you were on vacation when the damage occurred. However, this can lead to additional scrutiny by the insurer. TJ Roberts, an agent at Farm Bureau Financial Services in Mission (Kansas), says that if you delay in reporting a claim, your insurer will likely ask for additional evidence to support the claim. You may be asked by the company to explain why you haven’t filed the claim as soon as possible.
Document the damage
You can take photos of the damaged items and create an inventory to give your insurer a record.
Roberts states, “You can’t take enough photos.” He emphasizes that you should try every angle and capture the right lighting. The better the insurance company has the information, the better.
You don’t have the obligation to live with a roof leak until an adjuster arrives. If it is safe, you can make temporary repairs after you have documented the damage for your insurance.
Stopgap repairs, whether it’s fixing a leak or boarding up broken windows, can save you time and money. You might not be covered if you fail to address an immediate problem or if the insurer believes you could. Your insurance company may not cover you if someone breaks in to your home and steals your TV.
You can submit expenses to your insurance company as part of a claim as long as you have receipts and can show why repairs were necessary.
Talk to your adjuster
An adjuster will be assigned by your insurance company to handle your claim. This person will also serve as your main point of contact throughout the entire process. You will need to explain the damage to them, answer their questions, provide documentation and keep them updated on the status of repairs.
You will need to be your biggest advocate. The adjuster represents the interests of the insurance company, not yours.
Amy Bach, executive director at United Policyholders (a non-profit advocacy for people who have insurance), advises that it is polite to assert yourself with the adjuster. “Don’t bring your boxing gloves and be ready to fight.
A public adjuster is also available. Public adjusters are able to handle the claim on behalf of the policyholders and advocate for you with the insurer. According to David Barrack (executive director of National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters), a public adjuster typically gets a percentage of the total claim amount in exchange for their expertise. Barrack estimated that the fee would be around 15%. However, some states may have lower caps.
Keep your receipts safe
Before you receive a payment from your insurer, you could spend a lot on temporary repairs. Even if you get a check upfront from your insurer, it’s important to keep all receipts. Estimates won’t cut the mustard. You will need to show proof that you actually spent all of the money you received as the initial payment won’t usually cover the entire cost of repairs.
Take into account your contractor
You don’t need to hire the recommended contractor by your insurance company if your home has been damaged. Bach states that insurers often partner with companies they are familiar with. However, you can still locate a licensed, insured, and bonded contractor during the claims process if you have questions about the cost estimate.
Secure your property and premise
You can prevent further damage to your property or third-party injuries on-site by protecting your home and premise. As the policyholder, you are responsible for minimizing additional damage after a disaster. For a more in-depth explanation of your responsibilities, view our article, “Preserving and protecting your damaged property: What are your responsibilities?”
Hire a professional to assist you with the process
After you file a property damage claim, your insurance company will assign an adjuster to your case. Common mistake made by policyholders is to assume that the adjuster from the insurance company is looking out in your best interest. In fact, the adjuster of the insurance firm is looking out in the best interests of the company. You can hire your own team of professionals such as a public adjuster to assist you in the claims process. If you don’t know the details of your insurance policy or industry terminology, homeowner’s property damage claims can be complicated and time-consuming.
Here are some tell-tale signs you may need to hire your own professional public adjuster to help with your claim: “Four Signs You Need to Hire a Public Adjuster”
There are many things that you should do to support your claim and reach a fair settlement. However, there are many other things you shouldn’t do.
You can repair anything until you are approved by your insurance company.
Before you make any changes to your home, your insurance company and you should have a discussion about the costs and repairs that are necessary. Not only should all discussions and agreements be recorded, but also verbal.
Everything is trashed
These items include receipts, damaged goods, and personal belongings. These items will be required to support your claim to an insurance company. Make sure they are documented properly before you dispose of them.
Assume that you are required to use the vendors of your insurance company
You have the right to hire contractors, public adjusters and engineers. It is often in your best interest to do so.