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What you should do when filing a property insurance claim

When a home is damaged due to a disaster such as a storm, tornado, or flood, the stress and emotional turmoil may cause a person to unwittingly do things that will adversely affect a property insurance claim.

The fact is, how a person proceeds in this situation makes a huge difference in how – or if – the claim is covered. Following are some dos and don’ts when it comes to filing a property insurance claim.

What you should do

Notify your insurance company as soon as possible. If you wait too long, your claim may be denied. Even if you are forced to evacuate or live temporarily in another location, this should be your first step. You can do this by phone, and it may be possible to do it online. Provide your name, address, policy number, type of claim, and a list of damaged/lost items.

Secure the property. Depending on the type of disaster, it may be several days before an adjuster comes to inspect your property. You must take steps so that no further damage occurs after the initial claim is filed. If windows, walls, or the roof are damaged, cover them or board them up to avoid further damage from wind or water. Also, make sure that your property is reasonably safe and will not cause injury to others.

Make a detailed list of damaged items. This is often the most challenging part of filing a claim. Each item listed should be accompanied by a description, make and model number (if applicable), age, replacement cost (what it would cost to replace it today), and current cash value. If total loss occurs and the items are no longer there, this list must be made from memory.

Hire a professional. Your insurance company will, of course, assign an adjuster to your case. But the adjuster is working for the insurance company, not for you, and he/she will not necessarily decide everything in your favor. You can hire your own licensed professional adjuster who will help you through all aspects of the complicated claims process.

What you should not do

Don’t throw anything away. You want to get back to a sense of normalcy as soon as possible, and so you might be tempted to start throwing away damaged or ruined items. But damaged items, as well as receipts and credit card statements, are valuable proof in establishing ownership and value. Keep everything until after the insurance adjuster has made an inspection and you have authorization from the insurance company to get rid of them.

Don’t start to make repairs. It’s natural to want to begin repairs right away, but it is important to leave everything as it is until the adjuster has looked at the damage and you and the insurance company have reached an agreement on what repairs need to be done. If you start making repairs before they have been approved, the insurance company may not cover them.

Don’t assume that you must use the insurance company’s vendors. The fact is, you don’t. You have the right to hire your own contractors, and it’s usually best if you do. Talk to friends, relatives, neighbors, and workmates, and read online customer reviews until you find contractors you’re comfortable with.

If you have filed a claim and it has been denied, consult an attorney experienced in property insurance. Going to bat against an insurance company is definitely playing in the big leagues. It is best to have an experienced professional at your side.

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The Law Office of Jessica Taylor, PLLC

The Law Office of Jessica Taylor, PLLC
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