Filing a home insurance claim is probably not something you think about very often. Your house is generally your most important asset, so it’s not pleasant to ponder some worst-case scenario that could lead to a home insurance claim.
But if you’re reading this article right now, I can safely assume you’re either in the process of filing a claim, or you soon will be. So let’s talk about how to file a homeowners insurance claim, and some of the key points you should keep in mind along the way.
9 Helpful Tips for Filing Insurance Claims
1. The claims process actually begins before disaster strikes. You should make a list of all your possessions kept within the house. It’s a good idea to take pictures as well. You will need to store this inventory somewhere other than in your house. The last thing you want is to lose your inventory list and photos along with your home.
2. After an event damages your home, you should try to salvage whatever you can. For example, you can use tarps and other protective materials to shield belongings if you’ve lost part of the roof. If the home has been flooded, you can increase ventilation with fans to prevent mold build up.
3. Create a home insurance claims journal to keep track of the claim process. Use a notebook or notepad to document all of your correspondence with the insurance company. Any time you talk to somebody, make note of the date and time as well as the nature of the discussion. This kind of information can be useful later on, in the event you have to take legal action against your home insurance company.
4. Some insurance providers will make an initial payment when a claim is filed. But be careful signing any documents related to such payments. This technique is often used to circumvent future claims made by the homeowner. If you sign any documents to acknowledge that the initial payment was also the final payment, you’ve basically surrendered your right to additional coverage under your policy. It’s a dirty trick, but a common one.
5. At some point, an insurance adjuster will probably visit your home to assess the damage. This may be a public adjuster that you have hired, or an adjuster who works for the insurance company. Whatever the case, you should be present when this person comes out to view the home. Make sure he or she sees the full extent of the damage and doesn’t miss anything. This will help ensure that your claim covers as much of the loss as possible.
6. The adjuster mentioned above will also write up a report detailing the damages to the home. You should get a copy of this report and check it for accuracy. You should also ask your insurance company for a copy of the entire claims file, which you are entitled to by law (in most states).
7. Home insurance companies are known for giving homeowners the runaround and trying to avoid payouts. Don’t let them treat you this way. If they tell you that a particular item is not covered in your policy, ask them to point it out to you in the policy. Don’t just take their word for it.
8. It’s an “unwritten rule” within the insurance industry that if you make the claims process difficult, people will be less likely to follow through on the claim. They’ll be more likely to abandon it. Don’t prove them right. Stick to your guns and get what you are entitled to, no matter how difficult they make it. Be patient and persistent.
9. If you file a home insurance claim, and have all or part of the claim denied, you may want to seek legal help. There are attorneys who specialize in these types of claims. Judges and courts often decide in favor of homeowners, as opposed to home insurance companies. So don’t be afraid to take legal action if you feel you are truly being wronged.
Hopefully you won’t have to go through all of these steps to file a home insurance claim with your provider. In a perfect world, you would simply file the claim, and the insurance company would cover your losses as outlined in the policy. But it doesn’t always work this way, so I’ve outlined all of the steps you may have to go through … just in case.