An oft-overlooked aspect of filing a homeowners insurance claim is the amount of time it will take to get an incident processed. After all, people tend to compare homeowners insurance quotes, enroll in a policy and hope they never need to actually use it.
When the unthinkable occurs, you’ll want to get your life back to normal as soon as possible. These tips for filing an effective homeowners insurance claim will help you minimize the time it takes to get you back on the right track.
To File or Not to File
Depending upon the nature of the loss, you might be better off forgoing a claim altogether. The primary driving factor behind this decision will be the amount of your deductible. If your deductible is $1,000 and the loss totals $1,100, it might be better to just deal with it on your own. After all, filing a claim could cause your premium to go up more than the $100 you’d receive.
Know What Your Policy Covers
Filing a claim only to learn the incident falls under one of your policy’s exclusions will still go down as a claim, which could also have an impact on your premiums at renewal time. Plus, it’s just plain disappointing to think you have coverage for a situation only to learn you neglected to include it when you bought the policy. You also need to be careful to confirm your policy pays out replacement cost as opposed to actual cash value, which could be a huge disparity.
Report the Loss
If it’s more than you can handle on your own and your policy covers it, contact your insurance agent right away and tell them what happened as succinctly as possible. Here, it’s important to note the individual with whom you’re speaking — regardless of how friendly they’ve been in the past — works for the insurance company and is duty-bound to minimize the company’s exposure. So, make sure you give them all the information they need to reach a fair assessment of your situation.
Keep a Contractor on Speed Dial
As counterintuitive as it might seem, the best time to interview contractors is when you don’t need one. If you own a home, you’re going to have to call for a contractor at some point, so the smart thing to do is find somebody before the need is there. This way, you can interview without the pressure of needing to hire immediately. You’ll also have more time to make sure they’re reputable, effective and skilled. Then, when you need to file a claim, you’ve already got a preferred contractor who is familiar with your home. Should a loss occur, have them come out right away and give you a quote before the insurance company’s adjuster arrives to assess the damage.
Photograph the Loss as Thoroughly as Possible
Pictures alleviate the need for a lot of explanation. Document the damage thoroughly from a number of different angles so your adjuster can see it clearly. If the incident happens at night, shoot the pictures as soon as the sun rises to prevent changes going unrecorded. Stills are good, but in a lot of cases, video is even better.
Complete Paperwork as Soon as Possible
The faster you meet all the company’s requirements, the more quickly repairs will get underway. If you’re displaced from your home as a result of the incident, keep track of all associated expenses so they can be factored into your claim and settlement. Have your annual home inventory available (you do this every January—right?), so you can make sure all of your essentials are included in the claim.
File a Police Report
Depending upon the nature of the incident, it might be necessary to have a police report on file to which your adjuster can refer. This is particularly true in cases involving personal injury, burglary and/or theft.
Accompany the Adjuster During the Inspection
Give the adjuster your contractor’s assessment of the damage to help them in their investigation. Be cordial with this person, but remember their job is to get your place restored as inexpensively as possible. Answer questions truthfully, but avoid saying anything to give them a reason to discount or deny your claim. For example, if your teenage son rams the garage door with the family car, you probably don’t want to say, “I really should have taught him to drive better,” thus implying culpability.
Accept Only What You Need
If you do your homework, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it will take to get things back in order. Be firm, but fair, and keep in mind: once you accept a settlement, it’s game over. There’s no going back to the negotiating table.
If you follow these tips for filing an effective homeowners insurance claim, you should have a relatively smooth claims process. Just as you did when you first sought your homeowners insurance quotes, doing your research up front will put you in a better position to work with your insurer to reach a comfortable resolution. Find the best insurance for every situation with CoverHound!