In an ideal world, you’ll never need to enact the property insurance you pay for every month, even if that might mean being frustrated with paying for something you don’t use. But the world is far from ideal, and in a state like Florida, where hurricanes are abundant, having this insurance will likely come in handy.
But having the proper insurance plan in place is just the first step. When your home is damaged, it’s important to know what steps need to come next in order to take full advantage of the plan you pay for, as well as the process to expect after filing your claim.
Knowing When to File a Claim
Property insurance exists in order to replace items or repair damages that are the result of some kind of accident or unfortunate event relating to your home or business. You pay monthly premiums so that if and when a hurricane barrels through, or a pipe bursts and floods your living room, or a fire breaks out in your garage, or a burglar breaks in and steals all your valuables, addressing that damage or replacing those items is more feasible because your insurance provider can help you cover some of those costs.
The first step in knowing if you have a claim to file after an incident similar to one of the above is to know what kind over coverage your plan provides. You should review your plan and make sure you’re completely familiar with what kind of claim you’re able to file and receive compensation for before reaching out to your provider.
Many standard homeowners’ insurance plans cover liability, protection from some types of disasters, theft, and additional living expenses so you and your family can live elsewhere while the repairs to your home are being made, if needed. These types of policies will also often cover damage from things like fire, smoke, hail, lightning, and some types of wind and water damage.
It’s important to pay attention to the “some types of wind and water damage” portion of your plan when you live in a state that’s prone to hurricanes. That’s because in these kinds of states, Florida included, many property insurance providers will require you to pay for addendums to your standard plan that cover damage specifically resulting from wind and flooding brought on by hurricanes. This type of damage can be much more extensive—and thus, more expensive to repair—than average wind or water damage, and so require additional contracts and usually, additional monthly payments.
If the damage to your home appears to fall under your coverage plan, that means it’s time to file a claim. And you don’t want to wait to file it. The sooner you file and start working with an insurance claims adjuster, the sooner you can start making repairs or replacements, and the sooner you can expect to receive compensation from your provider for any costs you need to pay out of pocket to start.
The Steps of Filing a Claim
The steps to take in order to file a claim for your property can usually be found either within your insurance contract or subsequent packages of information you received when you enacted your plan. But most often, these instructions will direct you to contact the company by either phone or by visiting the claims page of their website. The correct phone number and web address for your provider’s claims department are extremely important to keep in a safe and easily accessible place should the damage to your home prevent you from digging around for it after the fact.
Many insurance providers these days have clear, step-by-step guides and forms on their websites for clients to fill out to get the process started. You can do the same with a representative on the phone, which may be an even faster process. Just be wary of what you say to this person, especially if you aren’t yet sure of the extent of the damage to your home.
You’ll then be assigned a claims adjuster, and it’s important to both be thorough and careful with the information you share during these early processes of filing your claim. If you let your adjuster know the damage suffered before you’ve discovered all the damage, you may not be able to make a further claim for compensation later. But if you’re overzealous in your claims of damage from the beginning, you could be found liable for insurance fraud. For these reasons, it’s important to first make sure you take the time to assess all the damage to your home as thoroughly as possible, and then put an honest report together of the losses you’ve suffered.
Your claims adjuster is likely going to ask for quite a bit of information about what was damaged, how it happened, and the value of the items lost or repairs needed. But it’s important to keep in mind that you are not required to answer these questions in full at this time. Continue exercising caution until the adjuster or another representative has had a time to do their own inspection and create a report that they then share with you to consider.
What to Expect After Filing a Claim
The truthful reality about property insurance claims processes is that they can be frustrating. Insurance companies keep their own business interests in mind before the interests of their clients, which means they are prepared to offer low coverage settlements, as well as take their time during every step of the process. Meanwhile, you could be left with unsightly or unsafe damage to your home, costly temporary housing, and paying for repairs and other expenses out of your own pocket with no guarantee of being reimbursed. That’s why, when it comes to receiving the compensation you deserve from your insurance company, you must be familiar with what to expect, and be your own advocate toward that end.
The general process you can and should expect to take place after filing a claim is to have an inspector from the insurance company come out to assess the damage. They may also ask you for a full report of damage or items missing, how the damage happened, the estimated monetary value of those damages and items, photographic evidence, and information about what accommodations your family needs in the meantime. This is all in an effort to see how your needs align with your claim.
The adjuster may then offer to write you a check to cover damages based on their initial inspection. If the amount seems feasible to cover all the costs needed, you’re welcome to accept it. Just know that once you accept their offer, it’s unlikely that you will be able to ask for additional money later. But you by no means are required to take their first offer, and can instead enter a phase of negotiation.
If and when a fair claim value is settled upon, you can next expect to either have your insurance company recommend contractors to make repairs, or your can attempt to suggest your own. Whether or not they agree to use your suggested company often depends on the details of your contract. In either case, repairs will likely get started before you’ve received your full coverage amount, and that’s largely okay. Though it may take additional time, you should expect to receive checks for the full amount needed before your claim is officially closed. Sometimes, the contractor may be paid by the provider directly.
If at any time during the claims process your insurance provider is being less than forthcoming, you can hire a property insurance lawyer to help you make your case and get the coverage you need. A firm like The Whisler Law Firm has decades of experience helping homeowners and business owners receive the compensation they deserve after their property is damaged—even when their insurance provider is doing their best to prevent that from happening. So call our office at 833-529-5677 or fill out our online form if you’d like to talk with our team about how we can help.