If you’re a Florida resident who’s lived through a few hurricane seasons, then you likely know just how devastating the damage caused by these fierce storms can be—even if it hasn’t yet happened to your property. But just because it hasn’t, doesn’t mean it can’t. That’s why it always pays to be prepared before, during, and after hurricane season, so that you know how to address damage to your home as quickly, thoroughly, and cost-effectively as possible.
But sometimes, your home insurance provider might not make things so easy, no matter how prepared you are. Repairing your home after a hurricane or any other type of insured property damage costs them money, which they would much rather hold onto. So the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim likely has a few tactics to use in an attempt to save their company some valuable cash.
But if your policy covers a certain amount of costs for damage that you feel is being withheld, then you might need to employ a few tactics of your own when working with your adjuster in order to make sure your home is getting the repairs that you pay for with your monthly premiums.
- Review Your Policy
It’s tough to know how to take action on your own behalf if you aren’t sure what your “behalf” consists of. That’s why you should never rely solely on your insurance adjuster to tell you what the parameters of your insurance policy are. You need to be completely familiar with your contract yourself in order to make sure your adjuster isn’t saying or doing anything that goes against it.
Getting your facts straight before entering into any sort of negotiation phase is vital. For example, say a hurricane blows an old, beloved family tree in your front yard down. Your adjuster may offer to cover the costs to remove the tree from your property, but mention nothing about covering the costs to also have the tree replaced. If that specific detail is also covered by your policy, but you’re unaware of it, then you miss out on a possibly higher settlement value. Not to mention, having something important to you and your family replaced.
- Understand Expectations
There are certain things you should expect from your adjuster. Even though their job is to help their company keep as much money as possible, these employees have still be hired to be a reliable point of contact for customers when something goes wrong with their property. That said, there are certain qualities adjusters should have that you should be hopeful for.
A good insurance adjuster should communicate clearly, manage their time well, have some technological proficiency, be familiar with your policy, and have knowledge of repair processes and costs. However, while these are elements they should possess, it’s unfortunately rare for an adjuster to have all of them. So, if they lack one or more of these characteristics, you may need to make up for them yourself. For example, you may need to listen very carefully if they don’t communicate well, or research construction processes and relay those costs to them if they don’t seem to already have that knowledge.
Also realize that if a hurricane has hit your area, it’s likely that your insurance provider is helping many people like you who have suffered damage to their home. So if there are delays in the process, it may not be an insurance tactic at all, but rather, just an increase in their workload.
- Know Your Rights
The most important thing to realize when it comes to your rights as the insured is that you have no obligation to take your provider’s first offer. However, you always want to make sure that they are the first one to make an initial offer. This way, if your own research has revealed a lower figure than they initially offer, you already have the upper hand.
But if your research instead reveals that the adjuster is offering a settlement value much lower than you believe is adequate according to your policy, then you have every right to negotiate for more. Remember, the adjuster’s job is to save their company as much money as possible—not give you as much money as possible. If you approach the relationship with that mindset and show them you aren’t afraid to exercise your rights as laid out in your policy, you hold more power than they assumed you would.
- Take Notes and Record Conversations
There’s going to be a lot of back and forth between you and your insurance provider as you work out the logistics of getting repairs done. It involves determining how much damage was done, assessing how much repairing those damages is going to cost, negotiating those details, and determining how and when the repairs are actually going to be done, and by whom. For these reasons, it will be beneficial to you to take thorough notes on any correspondence you have. You may even want to record any telephone conversations you have with your adjuster.
Detailed notes and recorded conversations not only help to avoid confusion by either party, but it can also help to resolve disputes that arise during the process. And unfortunately, it’s common for disputes of one type or another to arise during the extended process, simply because the two parties involved have different intentions for the outcome. Make sure to compare your final settlement offer with your notes and recorded conversations to ensure that the settlement matches all verbal (or other) promises that were made.
- Be Honest and Polite
Though it’s important to be firm about your rights as the insured, it’s also important to not let the power of those rights get the best of you. Getting the most out of your insurance adjuster also means being willing to work with them in a way that’s productive. And the best way to achieve that is to be honest and polite during all exchanges with them.
If their first offer isn’t agreeable to you, you’ll be much more successful at convincing them to reconsider if you calmly present the facts and figures to them than if you yell and scream at them over the phone. The same goes for if you embellish facts or make false claims. The adjuster could quickly lose faith in your honesty, which could lead them deny your claim. You could even face criminal charges if you’re suspected of insurance fraud.
- Know What to Say
Understanding the right things to say—or not say—to the adjuster assigned to your case is a key detail to always remind yourself of whenever you communicate with them. Again, you should never attempt to deceive or embellish the facts and details of your situation. In fact, the less you say in these cases, the better. You don’t want any of your theories or opinions to be misconstrued and used against you later. You may have plenty of opinions on how things should be handled, but they are just that: opinions. Don’t share them unless you can back them up with provable evidence.
Though you plan on recording your conversations with your adjuster, if they ask permission to do the same, you should disagree. You are well within your rights to make that request. Finally, as mentioned, do not jump whole-heartedly into the first offer they give—even if it might seem agreeable. It’s wise to ask for an itemized list of all the elements that make up their offer so you can review it before making any decisions. And do not agree to sign anything, even verbally, before having a chance to review things carefully
Navigating the process of working with a property insurance adjuster can be tricky. These are professionals who are trained to use tactics that will help their company to get what they want—even if that means your home doesn’t receive the repairs it needs. If you’re not feeling up to the task of dealing with your provider on your own, it’s always wise to employ the help of an experienced property insurance claims lawyer like The Whisler Law Firm.
Our team has decades of experience helping homeowners and business owners recover the damages their properties deserve after a hurricane or other accident. We can work with your adjuster on your behalf to get you and your family a fair settlement. So call our office at 833-529-5677 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation to review your insurance policy and assess how your provider should be doing better