Fil­ing an In­surance Claim

Where to Start

RECOIL OFFGRID - - Disaster Insurance -

The “dis­as­ter” (fill in the catas­tro­phe of choice) caused a lot of dam­age, but thank­fully you and your fam­ily are safe. Now starts the re­cov­ery and re­con­struc­tion stage. You’ll want to take im­me­di­ate steps to not only mit­i­gate your losses, but also to doc­u­ment your dam­ages as com­pletely as pos­si­ble. Here are some tips, ideas, and sug­ges­tions to help get you started.

Con­tact Your In­surance Com­pany and File a Claim:

This may seem ob­vi­ous, but sur­pris­ingly many peo­ple wait far too long to start this process. Be­fore you call your in­surer, make sure to have all the ne­c­es­sary in­for­ma­tion on hand. If pos­si­ble, write it all down ahead of time. Be­fore hang­ing up with your in­surer, make sure to get a claim num­ber and the name and phone num­ber of the per­son you spoke with. Also get the con­tact in­for­ma­tion for the ad­juster who will be han­dling your claim. Pro­vide the in­surance com­pany with your up­dated con­tact in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing a tem­po­rary ad­dress, email, and phone num­ber where they can reach you.

Doc­u­ment the Dam­age: To the ex­tent pos­si­ble, you should take pho­to­graphs and video of all the dam­age. Start at one end of you prop­erty and care­fully doc­u­ment every­thing. Take as many pho­to­graphs as pos­si­ble, in­clud­ing shots from mul­ti­ple an­gles, with wider shots show­ing the dam­age to the front, sides, and back­yard. Do the very best that you can to de­scribe the dam­age ac­cu­rately and com­pletely. Take co­pi­ous notes. If pos­si­ble, take a video record­ing of the en­tire prop­erty.

Mit­i­gate the Dam­age: Many in­surance poli­cies re­quire you to take steps to mit­i­gate or pre­vent fur­ther

dam­age to your prop­erty. This means that you may be re­spon­si­ble if you failed to take rea­son­able steps to safe­guard and pro­tect your prop­erty from fur­ther loss/dam­age. What this ac­tu­ally means will vary widely de­pend­ing on the cir­cum­stances. Just make sure to com­pletely doc­u­ment all the dam­ages be­fore you start mak­ing even tem­po­rary re­pairs or clean­ing up.

Mark Your House: Take a mo­ment to spray paint your house num­ber, street name, and the in­surance com­pany name on the front of your prop­erty. Re­mem­ber street signs and house num­bers may be dam­aged or miss­ing al­to­gether af­ter a ma­jor event. Mark­ing your house will make it eas­ier for the in­surance com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tives and ad­justers to find your house.

In­ven­tory Per­sonal Prop­erty: Aside from tak­ing pho­to­graphs and video, it’s also a good idea to make a list of all per­sonal prop­erty that was lost or dam­aged. If you have re­ceipts that's even bet­ter. If not, do the best you can to ver­ify the value.

Start a Jour­nal/File: This is one of those things that just makes sense. Im­me­di­ately start a note­book and file to doc­u­ment your claim and all com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the in­surance com­pany. Af­ter each con­tact make an en­try with the date, time, and name and con­tact in­for­ma­tion of the per­son you spoke with. Also try to sum­ma­rize the con­tent of the con­ver­sa­tion as best you can. Don’t try to rely on your rec­ol­lec­tion of de­tails or events — write it down and be as de­scrip­tive as pos­si­ble.

Save all Re­ceipts: Make sure to keep copies of all re­ceipts for tem­po­rary hous­ing and other liv­ing ex­penses. In­surance pol­icy cov­er­age and lim­its vary, but keep all re­ceipts and sub­mit them to the in­surance com­pany for re­im­burse­ment.

In­de­pen­dent Pub­lic Ad­juster: Af­ter a ma­jor dis­as­ter, in­surance com­pa­nies may re­ceive tens of thou­sands of claims in a very short pe­riod of time. Ad­dress­ing all these claims will re­quire an army of in­surance ad­justers. Many of these ad­justers will have a tremen­dous work­load, un­der tight time con­strains to get the claims pro­cessed. Hir­ing an in­de­pen­dent, pub­lic ad­juster may help speed up the process and en­sure you re­ceive a fair amount for your claim.

File a Flood In­surance Claim: Many home­own­ers have sev­eral dif­fer­ent kinds of cov­er­age, in­clud­ing an ad­di­tional pol­icy for flood in­surance. Don’t as­sume you don’t have cov­er­age, and don’t as­sume which pol­icy will pay for any spe­cific dam­ages. Promptly file your claims with all the in­sur­ers.

File an Au­to­mo­bile In­surance Claim: Once again, doc­u­ment all the dam­age with pho­to­graphs and video, file your claim, mit­i­gate your dam­ages, and keep a log of all con­tact with the in­surance com­pany, in­clud­ing claim num­bers and the name and con­tact in­for­ma­tion for all per­son­nel you speak with.

File a Claim for Lost or Dam­aged Firearms: Guns are some­times cov­ered un­der stan­dard home­owner’s poli­cies, but there are usu­ally se­ri­ous lim­i­ta­tions. As such, many gun own­ers ob­tain ad­di­tional cov­er­age un­der sep­a­rate poli­cies. Make sure to promptly file a claim un­der any ad­di­tional poli­cies, and record all the par­tic­u­lars of the claim.

Other Op­tions: If you find that you’re ei­ther unin­sured or un­der­in­sured for your losses, you may still have other op­tions. You should im­me­di­ately con­tact the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency (FEMA at www.dis­as­teras­sis­tance.gov) to in­quire if you qual­ify for grants or low-in­ter­est loans for re­cov­ery and re­con­struc­tion, emer­gency hous­ing, re­pairs, or other storm-re­lated ex­penses.

Le­gal Ad­vice: Whether it’s a de­nied claim, or you’re just not sat­is­fied with the amount the in­surance com­pany is of­fer­ing, you should con­sult an at­tor­ney spe­cial­iz­ing in in­surance law be­fore mak­ing any ma­jor de­ci­sions or sign­ing any doc­u­ments. Make sure to keep copies of all cor­re­spon­dence with your in­surance com­pany and any doc­u­men­ta­tion you may have re­gard­ing your losses. A pro­fes­sional can eval­u­ate your claim, re­view your pol­icy, and en­sure that you get a fair pay­ment for your claim.

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