The insurance claims process can be very confusing and overwhelming. I have heard the saying, “How does one eat an elephant? The same as a burger, one bite at a time.” That is the same philosophy you should use when handling an insurance claim. But what is the first step?
Start by reading your policy's "declarations page" (“Dec page”). The Dec page shows how your policy is divided into coverage categories. Most homeowners’ policies have the following categories:
- Dwelling ("Coverage A"),
- Other Structures ("Coverage B"),
- Personal Property ("Coverage C"),
- Loss of Use/Additional Living Expenses ("Coverage D"),
- as well as other categories such as liability and medical payments.
Additional "Endorsements" or extras that may be listed on the Dec page.
2. WHEN DO YOU MAKE THE CLAIM?
Immediately. As soon as you learn your property and/or belongings have been damaged, report the claim to your agent and insurance company.
3. HOW DO YOU REPORT A CLAIM?
Call your insurance agent. If you purchased the policy online, you can readily locate online the correct telephone number to report a claim.
NOTE: When you first purchase your policy, get the contact number and save it somewhere safe should something happen down the road.
4. HOW TO RECOVER ON YOUR CLAIM?
There are many different elements that go into evaluating and handling an insurance claim. Follow these guidelines:
(1) Take photographs of everything, including contents, structural damage, exterior damage, interior damage – anything that was damaged as a result of the storm or fire.
(2) Make a list of damaged items, including the type of item, room location, description of the item, year purchased, actual purchase price of the damaged item, condition of the item, and a notes section for any additional details you may want to give to the adjuster.
(3) Contact your agent to report the claim.
(4) Schedule a date/time for the insurance adjuster to come to your house to view all the damage. Make sure you are present for the inspection.
(5) During the adjuster’s inspection, cooperate with the adjuster, but make sure to inform the adjuster of ALL damage to the house and contents, no matter how small.
(6) Give the adjuster a copy of all your photos and list of damaged items.
(7) Make sure to keep a copy of all photos and records for yourself, in case the adjuster misplaces the copy that you provide.
(8) After the adjuster’s inspection, follow up and request a copy of the adjuster’s report.
(9) Review the adjuster’s report to make sure the insurance company’s numbers match up with your numbers. This part can be extremely confusing. Remember to remain calm and polite, even if you do not agree with the adjuster’s conclusions. There are additional steps you can take even after the adjuster issues a report.
5. WHAT HAPPENS IF THE INSURANCE COMPANY SAYS YOUR DAMAGED PROPERTY IS NOT COVERED BY THE INSURANCE
Ask the adjuster to point you to the portion(s) of the insurance policy he is relying on to give that opinion. If you disagree with the adjuster, explain why the property is, in fact, covered by the policy. If you and the adjuster are unable to agree, call an attorney who handles these types of claims.
6. WHAT HAPPENS IF THE INSURANCE COMPANY SAYS YOUR PROPERTY IS WORTH LESS THAN IT ACTUALLY IS?
Ask the adjuster for a copy of his report and ask him to confirm how he calculated his numbers. If you disagree with the adjuster, explain how you arrived at your numbers, and ask the adjuster to reconsider. If you and the adjuster are unable to agree, call an attorney who handles these types of claims.
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