You survived the storm -- although maybe your house didn't fare very well. Now, along with the clean-up, comes another unpleasant but necessary task: negotiating with your insurance company and its adjuster. Check your insurance policy to see what is and is not covered, and the amount of the deductible before your insurance kicks in. That doesn't mean you shouldn't report every possible claim. Call your insurance company as soon as possible.
The adjuster works for the insurance company. No matter how friendly he might seem, it is in his company's interest to lower your compensation for property damage. Don't let him hurry you into accepting an amount. Your house is a mess, you are frustrated and majorly inconvenienced, but negotiating with an adjuster takes time, and it can be months before your situation is finally settled. You want the negotiations to be as specific as possible. Keep your cool and avoid venting. This is a business negotiation. Do not sign anything without reading it carefully and fully understanding the agreement. Most importantly, do not submit any "final" claim form until you are completely satisfied that you understand your coverage and rights.
Good documentation is important when negotiating with insurance adjusters. Photograph or video everything before starting the clean-up process. If you're one of those people who actually took your insurance agent's advice and photographed the contents of your home and its exterior before any damage occurred, you'll have an easier time proving any questionable damage. Even if some of your personal property can't be salvaged, don't throw it away until the insurance adjuster visits your property. If you have to temporarily relocate, keep receipts for hotels and meals for your claim.
Write down every conversation you have with the insurance adjuster. If you have electricity and can use your computer, create an e-mail trail. If something is unclear, send a follow-up e-mail or formal letter to clarify exactly what promises or agreements the adjuster made. Organization is important. Create special files with all pertinent information so everything is easily accessible.
When negotiating with the adjuster, prove the amount of your losses and insist on the amount you should receive. Start high so you can negotiate to your acceptable level. If the adjuster asks you to sign a confidentiality agreement, don't agree to do so until you have spoken with your lawyer. If the adjuster tells you something is not covered or doesn't go over your deductible, seek an independent opinion. Insist that any replacements are of the same quality and material as the damaged version. Your goal is to have your house and its contents back in the same condition they were in before the storm hit -- or even better.
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images