The process of filing an insurance claim and negotiating a settlement doesn’t always go smoothly. Insurance companies often request additional documentation and can present technical clauses that impact outcomes. Policyholders often misunderstand their coverage. You can pursue more aggressive action if your insurance claim is denied, but your success will be determined largely by the steps you take during the claims process and how you document the claim. We recommend you take steps early on to protect your insurance claim in case you have to fight for a fair settlement.
Prepare for a disaster
Ideally, property owners take precautionary measures to protect their insurance claim and plan a response before a disaster occurs. This includes documenting the property’s condition with photographs and/or video; storing important documents in an accessible place that is safe from water, fire and other hazards; and understanding your responsibilities under the insurance policy. In addition, policyholders should create a plan for dealing with any damage contingency, and commercial businesses should implement a disaster plan. You might also consider our Pre-Loss Inspection Service, which ensures that your policy includes adequate coverage in case a loss occurs.
Photograph the damage
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In the case of an insurance settlement, it can be worth thousands of dollars. The first thing you should do after a loss, as soon as everyone is safe, is thoroughly document the damage. Take pictures of all damages as well as all areas of the insured property that were impacted. Photographs serve as tangible proof of your loss. Ideally, pictures should be taken to document the property you own, especially expensive items, prior to a potential insurance claim in the future.
Document evidence of wind vs. flood damage
Because loss is caused by both wind and floods, hurricane-related losses can be particularly difficult to document. The wind carrier will expect proof of how much damage was caused by wind, while the flood carrier will expect proof of how much damage was caused by flood. As the policyholder, this burden falls to you. In this case, photos before and after the event are particularly valuable. Photograph debris in trees and items that were blown onto your property as proof of wind-related losses.
Identify – and document – areas of agreement
The insurance company will send its own adjuster to inspect and value your damage. There may even be multiple adjusters involved at different points of the claims process. Attempt to reach as many agreements as possible with the insurance company’s adjusters. But don’t leave it at that. Document agreements with written correspondence to confirm what was said, by whom and about what, and keep these documents in a safe place.
Protect your salvage rights
Some of your belongings may appear to be completely destroyed and may not be restorable to their pre-loss value. However, sometimes even these items have value in a salvage market. You may have rights to salvage or the money your items may bring if sold by a professional salvage firm. It is therefore important that you discuss salvage rights and confirm any agreements made with your adjusters via written documentation.
Beware of costs
There is a limit to the amount of money you can receive from an insurance claim, and any money spent will reduce what is available to you. Ask or demand that your insurance company pay questionable expenses “out of claim” so that they incur the costs – not you.
Understand the implications of contracts or agreements
Do not sign any documents until you fully understand them. Vendors may be sent out by your insurance company or simply show up on your doorstep in an attempt to get your business. Don’t let them or anyone else pressure you into signing an authorization or assignment form. If you need emergency services, try to get all parties to agree on the scope and price of the work. This will help prevent a situation where the carrier refuses to pay a bill claiming that the price was too high and the scope too wide. If this happens, you are required to pay the bill. If you fail to do so, the service provider can put a lien on your property.
Fully calculate all losses – even if they exceed your coverage
Oftentimes policyholders document their loss up to their policy coverage limits. However, you should document your full loss for several reasons. The insurance company will likely adjust the numbers in your claim to an actual cash value amount. In other words, depreciation will be taken and the insurance company’s offer will be lower than your claim. Also, come tax time you may find there are benefits available to you under the U.S. tax code as an uninsured tax deduction. Finally, if the loss is the result of someone else’s negligence then the insurance company may pursue subrogation. Uninsured losses, if properly documented, may be recovered.
Hire A Professional Public Adjuster
Doing what is necessary to secure a fair and equitable settlement is easier said than done. Hiring ALL RISK Public Adjusters to represent you in the event of a loss can save you both time and aggravation. More importantly, hiring a public adjuster ensures that you will receive the maximum settlement that you are entitled to. When disaster strikes, call ALL RISK Public Adjusters first!