Insurance: What You Need to Know Before Filing a Claim

Aug 9, 2007 - Never expect that filing any type of insurance claim will be easy or that it will be settled to your satisfaction or settled quickly.  Insurance companies are in business to make a profit and they have full time legal eagles and staff dedicated to finding ways to poke holes in your claim so as not to pay it.  Of course you should not begin the claims process on an antagonistic note but neither should you anticipate that everything will go smoothly.  If you have chosen to place your business with a highly rated insurance company, chances are good that you will be satisfied with the ultimate outcome, however in the event you are not, you may need to take things a step further.  Here are some general guidelines to follow when submitting a claim:

  • Review your policy carefully.  It is important to determine what is and isn't covered.  The coverages and exclusions sections amongst policies can vary widely so it's important to understand those contained in your own policy.  Contact your insurance agent or an insurance company representative to explain anything that is unclear to you.  It only makes sense that before proceeding with any claim you must be clear on the amount of coverage you actually have.
  • Document your losses. Good records will speed up the process of settling your claim.  If you can provide photographic evidence to help document your loss, do so as before and after photos can be very beneficial to your case.  Locate any receipts you may have saved as well as any type of proof of purchase relating to replaced items.  You may even be able to recover lost wages.
  • Prepare your claim carefully and follow all instructions.  Give the insurance company all the information it needs.  Written notification of the loss needs to be submitted to your insurance company as soon as possible and should include the following information: your name, the names and addresses of all involved in the incident, including any licenses numbers (if applicable) as well as facts pertaining to the loss: date, time and place.  Also include the names and contact info of any witnesses to the loss producing event.  Obtain copies of any police reports filed pertaining to your loss when applicable. 
  • Cooperate fully with your insurance company.  It is important to keep in mind that if you are sued as a result of your loss, your insurance company will likely represent you.   Fortunately the majority of claims are settled without the need for an attorney.  Your insurance company will want to have an insurance adjuster inspect any relevant damages before repairs begin so try to carefully maintain any damaged items, preventing further destruction to them, until the adjuster is able to complete an inspection.
  • Be persistent, don't simply cave in and go away.  If your insurance company offers to pay an amount substantially less than the amount of your loss, find out why.  If you disagree with the insurance adjustor's assessment regarding your loss, contact someone higher up within the insurance company's ladder.  However first enlist your insurance agent's help, as that's precisely what you have an agent for (assuming you do in fact have one) then ask to speak with higher level managers if you still are not satisfied.  In some cases, small claims court could be the answer in conjunction with filing a complaint with your state's insurance department.  As a last resort, you can contact an attorney specializing in insurance related matters, it could be costly but may be worth it if a significant amount of money is at stake. 

Nancy Osborne has had experience in the mortgage business for over 20 years and is a founder of both ERATE, where she is currently the COO and Progressive Capital Funding, where she served as President. She has held real estate licenses in several states and has received both the national Certified Mortgage Consultant and Certified Residential Mortgage Specialist designations. Ms. Osborne is also a primary contributing writer and content developer for ERATE.

"I am addicted to Bloomberg TV" says Nancy.


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