Despite all those warm and fuzzy television commercials to the contrary, your homeowners insurance company isn't necessarily your best friend, especially at claim time. Claims adjusters are paid to keep claim payouts to a minimum to help ensure their company's profitability. Following a few simple tips can help you maximize payouts and make the claims experience as painless as possible.
It's important to report the claim as soon as possible. Most insurance companies require that a claim be reported within a specific period of time as stated in your policy, and waiting until after this time frame can result in denial of coverage. It's a good idea to report your claim directly to your agent to ensure more personal service and to speed the process along. If your claim occurs after normal business hours, you can call your company's toll-free claims hotline.
Perform a Quick Fix
You don't have to live with a gaping hole in your roof or smoldering debris in your living room while you're waiting for your insurance company to complete its investigation. Make any temporary repairs that are necessary to protect you and your property until your claim is settled. For documentation purposes and to ensure receiving any applicable reimbursement, be sure to take photos of the damage before the repairs and keep receipts of repair-related expenses.
Prepare an Inventory
Make an inventory of items that were damaged or destroyed and assign a value to each item. Estimate how much it will cost to replace the item, not how much it originally cost you. Ideally, you should prepare an inventory of all your possessions before disaster strikes to prevent you from overlooking anything that was completely destroyed. This also keeps you from making mistakes or oversights that can occur when you're traumatized after an incident.
Avoid Reporting Smaller Claims
Think twice before reporting a small claim, especially one that might be lower than your policy's deductible amount. You'll probably end up paying most or all of the damages out of your own pocket anyway, and you'll also earn a black mark in the eyes of your insurer. Reporting even a small claim still creates an expense for the insurance company, and if you report enough of them it could lead to higher premiums or even cancellation of your policy.
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