A big storm causes a tree limb to fall on your garage. A pipe bursts and floods your kitchen. A burglar breaks in and steals your electronics. These are all unfortunate situations in which you might need to file a claim on your homeowners insurance. If you’ve never done it before, the process might be a little confusing. Here’s what you need to know when it’s time to call in a claim.
Contact the police
First of all, if a crime has occurred, then you need to report it to the police. Get a copy of the police report and the names of the officers you spoke to. You will most likely need to submit this information to your insurance company along with your claim.
Document the damage
Once you’ve notified the police, it’s time to document the damage. Photograph and/or video everything before you clean it up. In addition, put together a detailed list of what has been damaged, vandalized or stolen. Include the age of the items and their value. If an injury is part of the claim, record what happened, when, and who was involved. You will need to provide all of this important information to your insurance company.
Call your insurance company
Contact your insurance company as soon after the incident as possible. Make sure you have your policy number handy as well as the details of the incident as described above. You may want to ask your insurance company the following questions:
- Does my policy cover this incident?
- Will the amount of the claim exceed my deductible? If the answer is no, then there is no need to file a claim.
- How long will it take for the claim to be processed?
- Will I need estimates for the cost of repairs?
Fill out claims forms
If you’ve determined that you will file a claim based on the answers to the questions above, then your insurance company will send you claims forms. Complete and return these forms as soon as possible so your claim is not delayed.
Meet with the insurance adjuster
When you make your claim, the insurance company will assign a claims number to your case and appoint an insurance adjuster. The adjuster will inspect the damage to help determine how much you will be paid for your claim. Have a list ready of the all the damage and be ready to show all the evidence to the adjuster.
If necessary, make temporary repairs so that your home is livable. Keep all your receipts, as you may be able to submit them for reimbursement later. If you have to relocate as a result of the damage, also keep your receipts for accommodations and other living expenses.
After you’ve submitted all your information to the insurance company, it may be several weeks before you receive your settlement. This is especially true if many of your neighbors have filed claims at the same time in the event of a natural disaster.
If your claim is denied
If your claim is denied or you don’t receive what you think is a fair settlement, talk to your insurance agent. You may be able to provide more information that can help document why you believe you deserve more money. You may also be able to appeal your claim denial.