Filing A Property Insurance Claim
Understanding How To Protect Your Property Insurance Claim
In a perfect world, your insurance carrier will send out their field adjuster following your notification of a loss. The adjuster will thoroughly inspect and properly value your damage and a check will be forthcoming in a reasonable amount of time. Unfortunately, we see too many cases where this is not the case. Questions arise, technical clauses of the insurance policy are brought forth by the insurance company or the policyholder misunderstands the coverage they thought they had.
The steps you take, the language you use, and the documentation you provide to substantiate your claim can all play a part in how well protected you will be if your claim is denied and you have to fight for a fair settlement. Here are just a few things you can do to protect your claim:
Start Before the Loss: Document the condition of your property with photos. Make sure all important documents including your insurance policy are stored in a safe and accessible place, preferably protected from water, fire and other hazards. Make sure you understand your responsibilities under your insurance policy. Most importantly, have a plan in place for dealing with any damage contingency. This is especially true for commercial businesses that should have a disaster plan in place. Corbitt Public Adjusting, LLC offers a Pre-Loss Inspection Service that will make sure businesses and property owners are prepared to meet the requirements of an insurance claim.
Take Photos: Once everyone is safe, this is one of the first things you can do to document the damage. If we were to point to the number one thing a policyholder should do after a loss once life, health and safety issues are satisfied, it would be to photograph all damages as well as all areas of the insured property that were impacted by the loss event. Often losses are settled in conference rooms, mediation forums, and sometimes in a courtroom. As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Having photos to dispute the other side's position can be powerful and result in getting the payment you deserve.
Find Areas of Agreement First: Another area to help protect your claim is to try and reach agreements on as many issues as you can with the adjusters sent out by the insurance company. It is important that any agreements reached be followed up with written correspondence to confirm what was said, by whom, and about what. Our experience has been that your loss may have multiple adjusters involved at different times. So it is important that you maintain a file with all letters and notes that were used to confirm agreements or positions that were taken over the course of a claim adjustment.
Beware of What You Sign: Be very cautious about signing any authorization or assignment forms pressured on you after your loss by contractors. While you certainly have an obligation to mitigate your loss, you should take the time to read and understand the forms that vendors sent out by your insurance company or who just show up trying to get your business. If emergency services are required, it is important to try and get all parties to agree on the scope of work and price of the services to be performed. Avoid the situation that we often see where the carrier refuses to pay a bill you submit claiming that the price is inflated and the scope too wide. Because you alone authorized the work, they require you to pay for it. This often results in the service provider putting a lien on your property. Get agreements in writing on the front end.
Be Careful on How You Value Your Loss: Another common mistake policyholders make when trying to handle their own claim is they often will document their loss up to what they think the limit of their policy coverage is. This is a big mistake for a number of reasons. First, any numbers you submit are subject to be adjusted to an actual cash value amount (depreciation taken). Even if your losses exceed your coverage, you should fully determine the loss as you may have some benefits available under the U.S. tax code as an uninsured tax deduction. Also, part of the loss may be the result of someone else’s negligence, such as a defective product that caused a fire. In these cases, your insurance company may pursue subrogation which may result in you recovering your uninsured losses provided they were properly documented.