Suppose a hurricane came through Louisiana and your house suffered some damage. There is a hole in your roof and some of your appliances were zapped. While most insurers will offers prompt assistance, we have all heard horror stories of of poor adjusters and bad repair jobs. And then you get a cancellation notice from your insurance company.
If you know the best way to file an insurance claim, you can avoid some problems and get the coverage you are entitled to without delay.
Some policies have time limits for filing claims. Make sure you know the deadlines. After you file, your insurer should take no longer than 30 days to issue a check for a very simple claim, such as a stolen car, and only 60 to 90 days for a more complicated claim such as a caved in roof. If you suffer a disaster that forces you out of your home, check with your company first to find out if they offer immediate emergency aid to you.
Don't do anything beyond patchwork that will ensure that there is no further damage to your home. Board up broken windows to keep the rain out, but don't replace the glass. If you make permanent repairs without getting reimburse from your insurance company first, you may be stuck with the bill.
Find out the market cost of the damage by getting estimate from local contractors before your insurance company's adjuster visits the damage. If the insurance company's contractor offers a much lower bid, demand that the repairs be made with materials that are the same or equivalent to what existed before the damage took place. This is required in many states. If you have unusual vintage woodwork, for example, or plaster walls, a standard policy will provide only for repairs with modern equivalents (like standard moldings and wall board) while a premium policy is more likely to replace the same type.
Keep careful notes and records about who you have spoken to during the process of filling you claim. Write down what they have told you. Careful recording will encourage an adjuster to see you a someone who is demanding of quick action.
You have heard the advice. Take pictures. Get your antiques appraised and keep receipts of all valuable items. Store them in a fireproof box or a safety deposit box.
What if you do not have records of your belongings? According to the Insurance Information Institute, most homeowners won't have problems getting reimbursed as long as their total claim is within a range that is considered typical for the size and value of their homes and the number of people who live there. However, if you have jewelry and furs and real silver flatware and other valuables, you may not be reimbursed if you have not specifically covered them with a special clause under your insurance policy. Detailed record keeping will help your insurance settlement go much faster - so if you haven't gotten these records together - now is the time to do it!
If you have taken all of the steps listed above and your claim is denied, ask for a written explanation from your insurance company. If the company is denying your claim because of a specific clause in your policy which excludes something specific, you can try some other options...
Appeal - Follow the instructions of your company for an appeal.
File a complaint - Use your state's department of insurance. States have the power to sanction insurers who don't pay claims. There is help for contacting your state's insurance department or consumer groups in your area.
File a suit - As a last resort, you may want to file a
suit against you insurance company, However, be aware that this
is a long battle with a lot of legal fees. Check to see if it is
worth your while.
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