How To Handle a Homeowner’s Insurance Claim
My colleague, Jonathan Stein, a California personal injury attorney, was kind enough to share with me his 10 Steps To a Successful Homeowner’s Insurance Claim. Check out attorney Stein’s blog, the California Personal Injury and Insurance Blog which is laden with answers to your personal injury and insurance related questions. Here is the list, provided by attorney Stein, on how to handle a homeowner’s insurance claim:
CONTACT THE INSURANCE COMPANY If you have had a theft, fire, water damage, or other claim, notify your insurance company immediately. Unlike auto claims, where I say you can wait 24 hours, with homeowner claims the wait can cause more damage. Call your insurance company NOW!
DOCUMENT YOUR CLAIM WITH PICTURES Take pictures of everything. Take pictures of the damage, the non-damaged property, the cause of the claim (ie the fire, the point of entry for water, any holes in the roof) and the rest of your house. You may need them later.
CALL YOUR OWN CONTRACTOR Yes, the insurance company will recommend a contractor. However, it is important that you get your own estimate or two. Ask friends and family for recommendations.
BE PLEASANT The insurance adjuster is not your friend. However, the adjuster is a person and you should treat him or her that way. Being pleasant can make a world of difference.
GET OUT YOUR PRE-EXISTING INVENTORY If you are saying "I don’t have one" then go out right now and videotape everything in your house. As you do this, tell what it is, where you bought it, when you bought it, how much it cost, and any other details you remember. Now, go lock it in your safe deposit box. After a claim, show it to the insurance company.
DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT Track down owners manuals, receipts, and any other paper that shows what you owned! The more documentation you can provide, the easier the claim will be.
AVOID THE "VULTURES" Especially after fires, people will come to your house and ask you to hire them. Avoid hiring anyone at this time.
DO NOT SIGN PAPERS There are a ton of papers that you could sign with a homeowner’s insurance claim. Do not sign them. These are very complicated papers. You must read them and ask the adjuster to explain them to you. If you still do not understand, then ask for an explanation IN WRITING!
READ THE INTERNET On auto claims, I tell you not to read the internet. On homeowners claims, the internet can give you great information: replacement prices for your tv, information on contractor’s licenses, hotels that give weekly or monthly rates. Use the internet to do research!
TALK TO AN ATTORNEY If you do not understand the process or you feel pressured by the insurance company, talk to an attorney. The consultation may cost you an hour of the attorney’s fee, but it will be well worth it.