Tips for Handling a Home Insurance Claim
Consider if the damage is worth filing a claim
Your first step should be to wonder, “Do I really need to file a claim for this?” Small home problems are known as “incidentals” by many insurers. These have the same deductible and potential to raise your premiums as a whole home replacement. Making frivolous claims or requesting claims that can't be honored trigger expenses that make claims cost more than they save.
Be familiar with your insurance policy.
Review your policy every year or every time you switch carriers. Look on the “declarations” page to find out the types of incidents that are covered. This page also has the maximum value you can get from a claim. Before filing a claim, take the time to look at your policy and see if your problem is covered.
Know a Licensed and Insured, Reliable Contactor
You'll want only the most reliable contractor to perform repairs on your home after it's damaged. Try to seek one out before anything happens to your house. This will ensure that you get the best work possible when the time comes. You have the right to choose who works in your home. You do not have to use anyone you do not want to.
Use your preferred contractor for a repair estimate
A dependable contractor will be able to make an accurate estimate, then perform the work correctly both on-schedule and on-budget.
Take photos of the Damages
Your first step after calling your insurer and your contractor should be to begin documenting the damage as-is. Take clear, well-lit photos from as many angles as possible.
Get in Touch with Your Mortgage Lender
Your mortgage lender will likely be part of the settlement process if you don't own your home in full yet. Ask your lender how they handle insurance claims, many have specific packets they will want filled out to endorse insurance checks. Get that paperwork filled out at soon as possible to speed up the process with the mortgage company.
Be Present During the Adjuster Inspection
After getting a contractor's estimate, be ready to give the adjuster in writing your personal assessment of the damage. You'll help make sure that they do not miss crucial details or underestimate the extent of the necessary repairs.
Leave a Paper Trail
The key to making claims as painless as possible is airtight documentation.
- Make note of relevant phone conversations, or better yet use email to communicate since it's verifiable by both parties
- Save all receipts for expenses
- Never pay in cash, especially for your contract work
- If your policy covers living expenses, save receipts for associated costs while waiting for repairs like hotel rooms, babysitting, etc.
- Document value of existing assets prior to the damage. For example, save your HDTV purchase receipt and your invoice from a flooring replacement
- Obtain a copy of the police report, if applicable