How to Write Damage Estimates

The time to evaluate your belongings is before you need to file a claim for damages.

The time to evaluate your belongings is before you need to file a claim for damages.

Writing damage estimates is your insurance adjuster’s job. However, you need to know the value of your items to get a fair assessment of repair and replacement costs. The time to evaluate your house, car and other possessions is before damage occurs. But if you’re already facing losses, it’s not too late to start taking inventory and pricing your damaged items.

Photograph all your damaged possessions. Photos can be backup documentation for filing your claim.

Read your insurance policies. Know what your home (or apartment) and automobile insurance covers and how much. Replacement-cost coverage pays 100 percent of your item’s retail value, while other claim payouts are based on depreciated costs.

Call your insurer for an inventory checklist. This document lets you record major household possessions. It also helps you recall any damaged items you might have overlooked.

List damaged items with descriptions and retail prices. Here’s an example of a detailed description of an item: “The flat-screen TV has automatic brightness control.” A detailed description of damages might read: “The screen has a 2-inch by 15-inch gash.” Look through receipts, checkbook ledgers, and credit card and bank statements for prices. Use a calculator to total figures.

Submit your claim to your insurer. The adjuster also submits his estimates. The insurer okays all documentation before paying your claim.

Items you will need

  • Camera
  • Inventory checklist
  • Calculator
  • Old photos and video (optional)


  • Examine any old photographs or videos taken in your home. Pre-damaged items might show up in the background. Ask family and friends for photos or video they might have taken during visits.
  • If you can’t find receipts for damaged or destroyed items, look for user’s manuals, product registration cards or instructions for assembling items. Contact the manufacturers for suggested retail prices or visit their websites to look up the prices of similar items.
  • Hire a certified personal property appraiser. Lita Epstein, co-author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Accounting,” recommends hiring appraisers for expensive items. Contact the International Society of Appraisers at or call (312) 981-6778.
  • Insurance adjusters and repair contractors now regularly use software programs to estimate damages.


  • You don’t have to accept a claims adjuster’s estimate if you think it’s inaccurate or doesn’t provide enough coverage for damages, says the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The adjuster might have missed hidden damages during an inspection, or perhaps her estimate and the contractor’s don’t agree. Submit another claim for the additional damages, if necessary.

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About the Author

Valerie Bolden-Barrett is a writer, editor and communication consultant specializing in best business practices, public policy, personal finance and career development. She is a former senior editor of national business publications covering management and finance, employment law, human resources, career development, and workplace issues and trends.

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