So your worst nightmare comes true – your biggest investment is damaged due to an event that you have no control over. You look to your insurance policy, but rather than finding answers, you find forty pages of fine print. The reality is that most policyholders have never read their insurance policy. It is important to understand exactly what you are required to do to protect yourself and your family from further losses.
Important steps when you have a weather claim
The idea here is to “stop the bleeding.” If you have a hole in your roof or water in your house, the first priority is safety. Once the house is safe, begin the process of making sure that the house is secure by repairing windows and doors. Make temporary repairs to prevent water from coming into the home or further damage from happening.
Take pictures and video of the damage. I recommend walking through every room of the house while you narrate what you are seeing. You will also want to take photographs of damaged items, including the brand, model number and serial number. These steps will help you when you talk to the insurance adjuster later.
Create An Inventory
If you have items like furniture, electronics, clothing or tools that are damaged, begin making a list of those items. You will want to record the brand, model, purchase price and date of purchase, when available. You will also want to begin gathering receipts and bank statements that may reflect when you bought the item.
Read Your Policy
If you do not have one, call your agent and request one. These days, most insurance companies will allow you to download your policy from the internet.
Call Your Insurance Company
After you have reviewed your insurance policy in detail, call the claim in to your insurance company.
If you have roof damage, call a roofer to look at it. Do not trust the insurance company to determine the fair price of materials or labor. You want to get bids and estimates from as many companies as you can for the damage. At the very least, this will insure you get a good deal on the work, but it will also give you valuable evidence to discuss with your insurance company. Do not always go with the cheapest contractor. You want to use a company that is bonded and insured and will be around to honor their warranty.
Keep a Diary
You want to keep a detailed log of every discussion you have with the insurance company. Be sure to keep track of the names of the adjusters you speak to and the date and time of your conversations.
Read Every Document
Insurance companies are infamous for requesting information over and over. You want to make sure that you are responding to every request, even if the answer is “I don’t have that.”
Do not hesitate to ask questions of your insurance adjuster. If you have a question about the policy, or the adjuster’s interpretation, ask for an explanation in writing. The insurance company is required to respond in a timely manner and to give you truthful answers to your questions, even when it means they have to pay you more money.
Consult a Professional
If you are unsatisfied with your claim, do not hesitate to contact an insurance claims professional about your claim.