Owning a home requires a lot of attention and periodic maintenance to keep everything in proper working order. Even if you are on top of all that needs to be done to keep your house in good shape like changing your AC filters, painting, sealing your deck, etc., there will inevitably be something that goes wrong. Anything from a severe weather storm to a burglar can cause damage to your home or the possessions within, leaving you with the need to contact your homeowner’s insurance company to file a claim. Here are a few things that you should keep in mind when filing a claim to help things run smoothly and ensure the best possible outcome.
By waiting around to file a claim after property is damaged or stolen, you are risking having your claim being denied by adjuster. Most insurance companies have a window of around 14 days to file a claim after damage occurs. Also, if you’re dealing with an issue such as a water leak, more damage could be caused by not being proactive such as mold or damage to wood from moisture. As soon as you notice damaged or stolen property, call your agent and discuss your best course of action.
As soon as you notice that your property has been damaged, get out your phone and start taking pictures immediately. In most cases, the insurance company will send out an adjuster to take pictures, but it is a good idea to take some immediately, just in case. You never know when an adjuster will try to minimize the extent that your property is damaged to avoid paying out on a claim or reducing the claim payout. Also, these pictures can help you get proper estimates on repairs so you can decide if a claim is worth making or if you would be better off paying out of pocket instead.
It is a good idea to get some estimates before filing a claim if the damage to your home does not look significant. Filing claims on your policy causes your premium to go up, and some insurance companies will even drop your coverage if you file what they consider to be an excessive amount of claims (in my case, I have three claims in the past three years and I am having trouble finding new coverage!). If you can afford to pay out of pocket for a repair that will not break the bank, go ahead and do it. While it is still always a good idea to discuss things with your insurance agent, repairs that cost just over the amount of your deductible are almost never worth filing.
A lot of property damage is preventable. Trimming branches that hang over you or your neighbor’s house, installing smoke detectors, and putting in a security system are just a few of the things that can help protect your from being in a situation where you might have to make a claim on your policy.
During the claims process, you need to pay attention to everything that is going on. Make sure you look over all of the paperwork. Don’t let the extent of the damage or amount you’re being paid for it be minimized by the insurance company or claims adjuster. Often times, the insurance company will try to offer you a settlement or agreement that will let them get out of paying for the full claim. Don’t let them do that. Also, when reporting your claim, don’t add in what you think happened or what you think should be done about it- only report the FACTS of the situation. Mentioning that you think that there might be mold or some other thing going on with your property is always a bad idea. Also, never lie or be dishonest about what is going on- it will immediately have your claim denied and could land you in jail!
If you feel like you are being mistreated by your insurance company, don’t hesitate to let them know- but do so in a civil manner. Never except a check from your insurance company unless you are sure that it will cover the full extent of your damages. As a side note, some people would advise hiring a lawyer during this process. If there is a lot of money involved and you have a bad feeling about the way your claim is being handled, it might be worth doing so. Patience is a virtue, and it also happens to be something that you’ll need a lot of when dealing with an insurance company during your claims process. If you run out of patience, you could end up accepting an offer that won’t cover your repairs!
Posted on January 25, 2015.