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What is the claims process and what can I expect?

For starters, if you are the policy holder on your insurance, you are responsible for contacting your insurance agency if a loss occurs. It’s a good idea to let them know as soon as possible. You’ll want to avoid making permanent repairs while also doing your best to protect your property from further damage. If you have broken windows, for example, avoid installing new ones until the damage has been properly documented by either yourself or your insurer. Instead, cover the windows with a board or a tarp to keep from letting in water or debris.

Your insurance company should acknowledge they’ve received your claim within 24 hours and establish what you should expect moving forward. Though some insurers may have an emergency team for processing claims after a disaster, keep in mind that claims may take longer than usual due to their increased number. The adjuster will come up with an offer based on your policy and the damages your property suffered.

What are some tips to help me make an effective insurance claim?

Insurance companies have policies that adjusters must follow when processing claims. To help an adjuster process your claim faster and more accurately, the following tips can help:

  • Provide as much supporting documentation as possible in the form of photographs, videos, receipts, and credit card statements. 
  • If you’re a business, provide inventory reports, and daily sales logs depending on your coverage. 
  • Individuals can complete a Home Inventory Worksheet to document their personal possessions.
  • Return all phone calls and emails from your insurance claim adjuster, and provide your documentation, as soon as you can.

These can help the insurance adjuster arrive at a fair value for your losses. You may be able to submit receipts for a hotel stay if you’re forced to relocate, though that may be dependent on what kind of policy you have. Don’t forget to send your adjuster copies, or electronic copies, and keep the originals or your own copy of everything you send them. If you are mailing paper copies, you may want to make a note of the date each document was sent, or send these with some form of delivery confirmation.

What happens if my claim is rejected?

You have a few options in the event your claim is denied or rejected. You can first submit a Request for Information about an Insurance Denial to your insurer to get more information about exactly why your claim was denied. If you feel that your insurance policy is not being correctly interpreted, you can ask the insurance company to revisit your property to reassess the damages and their cause. You can also get a second opinion from a licensed contractor to use as a counter-proposal. Insurance companies take complaints seriously, as state regulators demand a response to complaints from paying customers.

When is it time to talk to a lawyer?

Often, an attorney’s help can make the insurance claims process easier. At the outset, or before agreeing to your adjuster’s appraisal, you may want to ask an attorney to look over your policy to determine what is and what is not required by the policy. A lawyer can help you determine if a settlement is fair and accurate, and help you advocate for more.

If your insurance carrier is not being reasonable, an attorney can help you challenge their decision. Disputes with an insurance carrier may be required to go through arbitration, mediation, or a court. Before starting this process, speaking to a lawyer is often advisable. 

Where should I keep my insurance records and what happens if they are destroyed?

It’s always a good idea to keep insurance records—as well as other important duplicates, like a copy of your birth certificate—away from your home or office. Commonly, people will keep additional records in a safe deposit box, with family in a different location, or create electronic records they can access remotely.

If your documents are destroyed, your insurance company will have a copy of your policy. But it’s important to store your documents securely, as well as understand how to replace important paperwork in the event it’s lost.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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