With hurricane Matthew battering along the coast of Florida I found it appropriate to blog about what to do before you file a claim with your insurance. I worked in the insurance industry for roughly 5 years and seen it all when it comes to what people do when they file a claim. I want to make sure my readers know what to do when they file a claim.
1. Are the Damages More Than the Deductible?
This is the most common problem I see when a claim comes to my desk. A client puts in a claim for a piece of a gutter that fell and makes the situation more dramatic than it is. It ends up that the repair cost to the gutter is less than the deductible and the client pays for the damages out of pocket. In addition, the client now has a claim that he paid for on his insurance record. Depending on the company that can increase your premium on your next renewal.
Better to play it safe if you have minimal damage and have a professional give you an estimate for the repairs. The time limit for filing a claim in most states is at least 1 year from the date of loss (damage). Take your time with figuring if the damage is below your deductible to help save money on your policy renewal.
If you have damage that is obviously above your deductible put in your claim with your insurance company immediately.
2. Take Photos & Notes
When it is safe to view damages it is best to take as many pictures as possible. The insurance company will not complain about the number of pictures, I promise. If a contractor or roofer is looking at the damages have them take photos too. For any personal property items that were damaged snap a few pictures of that as well.
After you taken as many photos as possible grab a piece of paper and write down all the damages you see. Start writing a list of all the damaged personal property that is known too. This information will help when you talk to your insurance adjuster. The more information you have the better and quicker the process.
3. Prevent Further Damage
The common person does not know about the duties they are required to keep, which can be found in your policy. However one major duty of the insured (person who purchased the insurance) is to prevent further damage to the property. This doesn’t mean for you to go on the roof and start replacing shingles. It means to call a professional for them to make any temporary repairs or put a tarp on the roof to help prevent leaks.
Save all your receipts and invoices, as the insurance company should pay for these expenses.
4. File the Claim
Each insurance company is difference but for the majority you can file a claim over the phone, in an agent’s office or online.
After you filed/called the claim, took photos of damages and helped prevent further damage your job is done for the time being. It is a simple process if this would be your first claim so don’t worry too much. Tell the truth and be detailed as much as possible.
Your homeowners’ policy provides for relocation expenses if your home is in unlivable conditions. However the term “unlivable” is very subjective. To clear it up the insurance perception of unlivable conditions is if the roof caved in, toxic fumes in the home, wall knocked down or you can see the entire sky from inside your home. I’m sure you get it by now but keep that in mind. If you do have to relocate just hold onto your receipts.
Be Aware of Unlicensed Workers
These people truly are scum in every sense. They come to your house asking to look at the weather damage and draw up estimates. The red alert is they ask for payments up front and then run out of town never to be seen. Do your due diligence and if something doesn’t seem right it probably isn’t. Research online to see if they are a reputable company or for reviews on their work from past clients.
Contrary to the bad image insurance companies have, they want to get you paid just as bad as you do.
Honey attracts more bees than vinegar. I have had nasty mean customers and I had nice people to deal with to help them resolve a claim. I always did my job no matter who was on the phone because hell I want to keep my job at the end of the day. But I will say for the clients that were nice on the phone I would go the extra mile to help them in their claims process. For a client that just cussed me and my momma out…..yeah that extra miles isn’t going to happen.
Be Patient & Cooperative
Like I said before, the insurance company wants to get you taken care of soon as possible. They do not want to prolong a claim unless there is still information that is needed. Do your best to be cooperative and patient in the process. If they need document A or another estimate for the damages just comply with them sooner than later. The sooner you give what is required the sooner your claim will be done.
I really hope that this post helps anyone who has damages from not just this storm but other covered damages as well. Share this list with anyone who does have damage to his or her home. Please be safe! Comment with any questions, doing insurance is one of my passions and I am more than willing to help in any way I can.
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