How to Prepare for the Claims Process
You can get the claims process off to a good start by reading your policy’s declarations page. It lists the different kinds of claims your policy covers, as well as the limits for each type of coverage you have. Homeowners insurance usually covers categories like damage to your dwelling, other structures, personal property, loss of use, and additional living expenses, as well as liability and medical payments. Familiarize yourself with the declarations page so you and the insurance company adjuster will be on the same page concerning what you’re entitled to for your property loss.
Next, read your policy. Some of the most important information, like the list of covered perils, won’t be included on the declarations page. Make sure you know what parts of your property are covered by the insurance policy and determine whether the cause of your loss appears to fall into the covered peril list. Some causes of damage, like flooding, aren’t covered—you need separate flood insurance to cover flooding-related home insurance claims.
The policy also outlines the steps you need to follow after you have a covered loss and how to settle disputes between you and the insurer, which are important to know. It will also state whether your insurance company will restore your property at actual cash value (the value minus depreciation) or replacement cost (the amount of money it costs to replace something). This will be important to know when you’re dealing with the insurance company.
After you’ve become familiar with the policy, start documenting the condition of your home and the losses you’ve suffered. Don’t try to clean up or alter the property’s condition before the adjuster inspects it unless you have to make temporary repairs to protect your home from further damage (for example, if the roof is damaged and there are more storms on the way). If this is the case, take pictures or video of the damages before you start fixing things.
You’ll also need to create an inventory of items that were damaged, destroyed, or stolen as a result of your covered loss. If you have pre-disaster photos of the damaged property, include them, as well as a description of the item, its original value, and its estimated replacement value. The adjuster can help you obtain estimates of the costs. You will probably also be required to complete a Proof of Loss form, which itemizes the losses included in your insurance claim. Take your time and fill it out completely.
The claim is complete after you and your adjuster agree on the amount of money the insurance company will pay you under the terms of your home insurance policy. However, you may disagree with the adjuster’s assessment of your losses. In that case, you may have some recourse.