Tips for Making Homeowners Insurance Claims

Tips for Making Homeowners Insurance Claims

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If you have to make a homeowners insurance claim, you can increase the chance that your claim is successful if you begin preparing before a disaster. These tips can help you know what to expect when dealing with your insurance provider.

You should maintain a meticulous record of your property, and make sure you understand your policy's limits and exclusions. After a disaster you should be responsive to your insurer's requirements, and make sure you're able to provide a thorough record of your property and the disaster when requested.

What to do if you have to make a homeowners insurance claim:

Make an itemized list for future insurance claims

First, you should begin keeping an itemized list of your things before a disaster to track of the worth of your home and its contents. This list should detail everything you own, including prices and dates of purchase. You should save your receipts to accompany your itemized list.

Maintaining a list like this will let you know how much you'd be able to replace if you had to make a homeowners claim. For example, if you bought a policy with $150,000 of personal property protection, but your itemized list shows you own $200,000 of property, you would know to increase your coverage in advance.

Staying informed on how much your items are worth and what you have also lets you know when to add extra coverage. Usually, insurance companies provide you with limited coverage for special items, like jewelry or handguns. For example, an expensive necklace or brooch might only be protected for a fraction of its cost if you didn't have an endorsement or floater attached to it.

Having a list makes it easy to account for all of your items if your home were destroyed. You probably know what kinds of computers or tablets you have and could make a good guess at how much they cost if you needed to replace them, but imagine that your home was completely destroyed by a tornado and you lost all of your possessions. In this situation, the things you lost and their prices could be hard to keep track of without an itemized list.

Understand how to deal with insurance adjusters

When you file a claim, you'll have to begin working with an insurance adjuster. Insurance adjusters work on behalf of your insurer to evaluate your property's damage and to rule on your claim. An adjuster's job is to minimize payouts for the insurance company.

You should never make any statements that could be taken as an admission of guilt. For example, if a tree fell through your window, you should not tell your insurance provider that you had been worried for a long time that the tree would come down. The adjuster could use this information as evidence that your negligence was responsible for the damage, and you would receive no payment.

But no matter what, you should always be truthful with your provider's insurance adjuster. Misrepresenting or concealing information to the adjuster is considered a form of fraud -- and besides getting your claim invalidated, you could face legal penalties if you commit fraud.

Document your interactions with the insurance adjuster

When you're assigned an insurance adjuster, you should document any interactions in a journal or spreadsheet. However, you should not make audio or visual recordings of your adjuster without permission. Instead, log the date and time of your conversations, along with a brief explanation of what was said. If you can, acquire paper or electronic copies of any reports or statements your adjuster makes.

If you're uncomfortable with dealing with an insurance adjuster, it might be a good idea to hire your own insurance adjuster to assist your claims process. Public adjusters interact with your insurer's adjuster so you don't have to, and they could help you avoid any hidden pitfalls during the claims process. Public adjusters earn a percentage of your claim if it's successful.

Report and document any damage to your property

As soon as your property is damaged, you should report the damage to your insurance company. If you experience a crime, you should also report the incident to law enforcement. The report you'll make with law enforcement will serve as evidence for your insurance claim. Your policy might also require you to notify agencies like your credit card company after specific losses, like if you experienced identity theft.

You should create a thorough log of the incident, including documenting the damage to your property with pictures or a written description. If you don't already have an itemized list, begin an inventory of your property by gathering any receipts or descriptions of your items you have.

You could also collect repair estimates from professionals. This information could help you form a more accurate idea of the loss you experienced. In any case, it's important to keep the insurance adjuster informed during this process to make sure that your plans are allowed by your provider.

Make necessary repairs to your property

Your policy may require you to make reasonable repairs right after an incident to protect the property from future damage. In fact, not making these necessary repairs could cause you to take on more expenses that your insurer won't cover.

Imagine that a tree crashes through your window during a strong thunderstorm and rain gets in, soaking your office. It's probably not reasonable or possible for you to move the tree out of your office yourself, but you might be able to move any non damaged property from the office to another room. You also might be able to put a tarp around the broken window to stop water from coming in.

If you have to hire a professional later to make repairs to your property, be sure to save receipts of expenses. Remember, apart from any immediate repairs, you should check with your insurance company or its adjuster to get approval for future projects.

Fill out homeowners claims paperwork on time

Your provider's insurance adjuster will check to make sure that you meet any deadlines your policy outlines for submitting paperwork after a loss. You might have to send in an account of the loss, an inventory of lost or damaged personal property, specifications for damaged structures, and receipts for additional living expenses if you have to leave your house.

Failing to comply with your provider's requirements can mean that you won't be eligible for a payout. To get the most out of your homeowners insurance claim, make sure that you read your policy carefully to understand your responsibilities. If you're unsure how to proceed, reconsider hiring a private insurance adjuster to help you.

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