What You Need to Do Before and After Filing a Home Insurance Claim to Make Sure Your Claim Is Paid in Full and Promptly
By C. Duane Gaulden
Author, Speaker, Consultant
Licensed Home Insurance Advisor
Take a deep breath — and be thankful you’re reading this now and not after you’ve already had a home insurance claim. Think ahead for a moment. You’ve just learned your home has sustained damage. No one hurt, but you’re not feeling great about this either, particularly mentally. Your home — boy, this is where you LIVE – you put your backbone into this property every weekend, it’s your pride and joy… it’s where you lay your head to rest.
There’s a lot to remember to do, and very little time to do it. What information do you need to have ready? Did anyone see anything, any witnesses? Does need to call the police? Who do you call about the damage and to have it repaired? Where will my family live while the damage is being repaired? Who do you call to make a claim? Your agent? The insurance company?
You are basically overwhelmed.
That’s understandable, but there are steps you can take long before a claim occurs so that you are prepared and making a claim is not that difficult at all. How?
You read this report.
I want to share this information with you because I know peace of mind is so important. I am willing — actually, I’m excited — to reveal to you the secrets about making insurance claims. Secrets that ensure your claim is paid in full and as quickly as possible.
Why would I just give these secrets away? Because it’s just as good for my business as it is for you. I want to let you in on the knowledge I have accumulated as an insurance industry professional and insider. I want to do this because I have found, time and time again, that generosity and the willingness to provide really great service come back to me. Tenfold. In fact, that’s how I have built my business.
My clients have filed hundreds, even thousands of home insurance claims. As a result, I know what to do, and what not to do, to get a claim resolved to the satisfaction of my clients. There are a few steps you should take right now, before you have to file a claim. With the right preparation, the incident will be a less traumatic experience because you’ll know exactly what to do right after it occurs.
What’s Covered — And What Isn’t
Have you read your home insurance policy lately? Ever? Probably not. Few people do, in all honesty. But whether you read the policy or not, you should know what your policy covers — and what it doesn’t. No policy can cover every possible situation, but most good policies cover just about every one. Sometimes, when they buy their policy, people decide not to have certain coverage. Maybe it’s because some coverages are too expensive or not worth having because there is no exposure at the time. But don’t ever forget, things change.
You should know the situations in which you don’t have coverage. Call your agent, or whomever sold you the policy, and ask him or her to explain what the policy covers, but, most important, what it doesn’t.
But there’s more to know than what the policy covers. Insurance companies have certain steps you need to follow in the event a claim occurs. In the policy, these steps are called “Conditions.” You should know what these conditions are.
You should also try, ideally before a claim occurs, to determine what you will do if certain types of damage happen, like water damage, earthquake, fire etc. Do you know of a restoration company that does excellent work? If you do, great! But if you don’t, ask your agent or even your insurance company to recommend a company near where you live. Most insurance companies have what they consider to be “preferred” vendors — companies that have good reputations and those insurers trust. Find out from your agent or insurance company if there are any of these companies and/or vendors near you.
Ask your agent what to do and who to call when you need to report a claim before the claim happens.
Now, your home and its contents. Are you prepared if you have to prove characteristics of your home and what its contents were? There’s plenty of information you will need to have… This is not information you will readily able to recall after a major loss to your home occurs. Among others things, you will be devastated and possibly feeling quite hopeless. Being prepared before hand will remove some of the pain in the claims process. Some of the items that may prove invaluable include recent photos of the inside and outside of your home, a recent appraisal, county or city taxes records, any building plans for your home, detailed written descriptions of any building or personal property items, specific photos of valuable items including data of purchase, values, serial numbers, and better yet, receipts. Obviously the very best recollection of any personal property would be a full inventory. This is very time consuming and can be costly. Many people simply take 36-72 photos of their home, have two copies developed and give the second copy to a relative or place in a safety deposit box. In addition, if your insurance company has forms to document property, by all means use them!
Now, you are prepared if a claim occurs.
What to Do After a Claim Happens
Your home has just been damaged. You need to do the following:
1. Find out if anyone is injured. Give whatever help you can to the injured (covering them with blankets, making them comfortable), but don’t move them. You could aggravate the injury(ies). Have someone call the police or fire department. Tell the police how many are injured and the possible extent of the injuries (whether they appear serious or not). The police can then notify the nearest medical units if they are needed.
2. Protect your home. Try to prevent further damage to your home only if it is safe to do so.
3. Write down, if you are able, as many of the details as you can. Write down the names and addresses of as many witnesses as possible, as well as the names and badge numbers of police officers and any emergency personnel.
4. If necessary, call any company or vendor that might be needed to prevent further damage to your home, like a plumber, restoration company, or glass company to board up broken windows. (It’s a good idea to have vendors in mind before a claim occurs).
5. Keep all receipts and paperwork in a safe place. When the time comes, the adjuster will need to see the paperwork to pay covered losses to vendors and/or other outside companies.
6. Call your insurance agent or the local claim representative for your insurance company to report the claim. Do this as soon as possible. (You should probably keep in a safe place the phone number(s) to call to report a claim). Actually, it’s a good idea to call your insurance agent in addition to the claim representative. If your agent is involved, it could help speed the claim process. You should also tell your agent if you are not satisfied with how your claim is being handled.
7. Ask your agent or insurance company representative how to proceed and what forms or documents you will need to support your claim. Your insurer may require you to fill out a “proof of loss” form, or other critical documents pertaining to your claim.
8. If you are not satisfied with how your insurer is handling/has handled your claim, make your feelings known to the company and to your agent, and see how they respond. Do not, at this point, use the word “lawyer.” Once you raise the prospect of seeking legal help, that will change the way your insurance company deals with you. When you say “lawyer,” you are basically threatening to sue your insurer. Don’t make this threat until you are absolutely convinced that your insurance company will not resolve the claim to your satisfaction. If you hire a lawyer, no one at the insurance company will be able to communicate with you directly; they must go through your attorney.
Remember, while no claim is a pleasant experience, proper preparation and following certain steps can assure that the claim process is resolved to your satisfaction. If your claim has the important documentation and all the key details, there’s no reason it won’t be paid in full and promptly.
But if you have any trouble, please contact your protection coach. We are here to help you and make sure your insurance policy takes care of you, as it should.