Insurance ranks as one of the only products you’ll ever purchase with the hopes that you never have to use it. This becomes especially true when purchasing homeowners insurance.
Unlike a car that can be easily replaced, a home can hold a lifetime of memories that no amount of money restores if lost. Yet despite the sentimental value of owning a home, the more practical view of homeownership is of an investment that needs protecting. Homeowners insurance provides you with a safety net that can help prevent you from falling into financial ruin should your home become severely damaged or destroyed.
However, it’s not uncommon for homeowners to find that the company they pay to protect their most important asset can become an adversary when it comes time to file a claim.
When trying to collect on an insurance claim, you should keep in mind that while it’s your insurance company’s job to restore your financial loss, it’s your job to prove your losses. When disagreements arise over insurance claims they generally stem from a difference in perspective of what constitutes fair compensation.
To help you feel better prepared the next time you make a homeowners insurance claim, keep the following tips in mind.
Know When to Hire Help
The more information you can supply your insurance provider, the better your chance of receiving satisfactory compensation on your claim. While your insurance company will dispatch a claims adjuster to examine what was lost, damaged, or destroyed before offering you a settlement, you should consider getting at least three independent estimates from local contractors who have established reputations about what it would cost to replace or repair what was lost. Receiving an impartial, outside opinion about the financial cost associated with your claim will help you understand if your insurer is offering a fair settlement.
If you don’t feel confident haggling with your insurance company over a claim alone, you should consider hiring a licensed public adjuster to handle the claim. While adjusters typically take anywhere from 5 to 15 percent of the total settlement, this cost could seem reasonable if an adjuster can increase the amount offered by the insurer or helps to alleviate the stress that comes with handling a traumatic loss, such as losing a home in a fire or natural disaster.
Keeping good records is your best protection when making an insurance claim. Record a written statement of your version of events immediately after when the details of what happened are still fresh. Take photos of any damage following an event and prior to making any kind of cleanup effort, if possible. Obtain a copy of the police report if your claim involves an act of theft or vandalism. Keep detailed notes on every conversation and correspondence you have with the insurer, including names of agents and dates of communication.
You should also keep track of any housekeeping, baby-sitter, home-care, and medical costs that occur as a result of your claim, and any living expenses if forced to temporarily live elsewhere until your claim is resolved, as some insurance policies will reimburse you for a portion of these expenses.
Know Your Policy Before Needing to File a Claim
Knowing what’s covered and for how much under your policy before filing a claim will keep you from discovering too late that an insurer won’t reimburse enough to restore or replace what was lost. Make sure to thoroughly review your policy’s declarations page, which provides you with an outline of coverage limits.
You also need to update your policy regularly to include any recent improvements or additions made to your home that exceed $5,000. Anytime you add value to your home or property, you need to make sure your policy keeps pace otherwise you could find the claim settlement falls short of your home’s updated value.
A freelance writer, Timothy Lemke comes from a long line of life and home insurance professionals.