Whether it was caused by a fire, flooding, water damage, extreme weather, or a natural disaster, significant damage to your property is always stressful to deal with. A major claim or damage that makes your home unsafe or uninhabitable is not just stressful. It can upset and disrupt your entire life.
The potential for this type of loss is why people have home insurance policies. They know that should anything happen, they can file a claim with their insurance company to pay for repairs and replacing lost belongings, as well as any additional living costs that are the result of displacement.
These are the steps you can expect to go through when you file that insurance claim.
Step 1: Inform Your Insurer and Initiate Your Claim
After a loss, you should act quickly to inform your insurance company. Start by giving them a call or an email so that they know about the loss immediately, though you will still have to formally initiate a claim in writing.
Step 2: The Insurance Adjuster Evaluates the Damage
The insurance adjuster is a professional who works for the insurance company to give them an estimate of the extent of your loss. They inspect the structural damage and lost belongings and pass this information along to the insurance company, which then compares that estimate to the coverage in your policy before providing you with an offer.
It is important to remember that the adjuster is paid by the insurance company. However, you can also hire a public adjuster or insurance lawyer who can bring a similar level of knowledge and experience with insurance claims to your side, and advocate for your interests against the insurance company.
Step 3: File Your Proof of Loss
While the insurance adjuster will examine the physical loss to the structure of your home, you will also have to file a Schedule of Loss. This is a list of damaged personal property, and it may also include things like receipts or proof of ownership that can prove that you owned it at the time of the loss.
Step 4: Get an Offer from the Insurance Company
Once the insurance adjuster has documented everything that they need to, they will pass along their recommendation to the insurance company. The insurance company will likely put out a tender to its preferred contractors for the work that needs to be done on your house. They will often base their offer on the lowest quote that they get from those contractors, as well as their evaluation of your lost belongings and additional living expenses.
Step 5: Negotiate with the Insurance Company
The first offer that you receive from the insurance company is not necessarily the final one. You may disagree with the insurance company’s estimate of your loss, and you may have good reason to believe that, according to your insurance policy, you deserve to receive more.
As long as you have justification based on your insurance policy or the cost of your recovery, you often have a good chance to renegotiate with the insurance company. This may involve getting a second opinion on the damage, or your own expert to report to dispute the insurer’s position. An insurance lawyer can help you organize and present this evidence to the insurer and formulate a strategic and persuasive offer to settle based on it.
These are the basic steps you can expect during an insurance claim. There will be more to do once you receive a settlement and begin the recovery process, but this is how the claims process is likely to play out.