Most homeowners aren’t experts at dealing with insurance companies, initiating a claim or negotiating insurance claims. Typical homeowners only ever have to make one or two major insurance claims – if any. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips, tricks, and strategies you can use to help negotiate the best settlement with your insurance claims adjuster and make sure that you are fully paid for all of your property damages, even if you’re a complete beginner.
Keep reading to discover the best insurance claim help, tips, strategies, and advice, including how to negotiate the best settlement with any insurer.
Make Sure It’s in Your Best Interest to File A Property Insurance Claim
Your home insurance premiums will likely increase after you file a home insurance claim. In many states, you can expect premiums to jump anywhere from 15% to 30% after a single home insurance claim.
Because of these higher premiums, it may not be in your best interest to file a home insurance claim for ‘incidental’ incidents. Home insurance companies call small home insurance claims ‘incidentals’. These claims will raise your premiums just like a larger claim, but they’re relatively minor problems.
The more home insurance claims you have within a seven year period, the higher your insurance premiums will be. Home insurance companies are able to access your entire insurance history by looking at your Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange report, or CLUE report.
Some insurance experts recommend raising your deductible to 2% of your policy limits and only using your home insurance for incidents that cost more than your 2% deductible. You should then set up an emergency fund to cover incidental claims that are lower than the 2% deductible. Rely on your home insurance policy for major incidents.
At the same time, it is important to note that insurance rates may increase after a natural disaster in your area, whether you file a claim or not. If everyone around you is getting a new roof and you neglect to have your roof covered at that time, but see an increase in your premium, then you just paid for your neighbors’ new roof. While the insurance company can’t raise individual rates for a weather-related claim, it can raise rates in that whole territory due to the number of claims that were filed. So, it is important to use your insurance when it is needed for a weather-related claim. You will most likely see a rise in rates whether you file a claim or not.
Read Your Policy Before Making a Claim
Most homeowners don’t have expert knowledge of their home insurance policies. You might have a basic understanding of your home insurance coverage, including what’s covered and what isn’t. But your insurance contract has plenty of fine print that can cause your claim to be denied or underpaid if certain items are excluded in your policy language.
Read your policy after an incident before you make a claim. Negotiations with your insurance company are easier when you’re well-prepared. Check your policy for specific sections governing your latest incident – like a section on flood damage or wind damage.
Ideally, you’ll read your insurance policy before an incident to understand what is and is not covered. If you attempt to read and understand your policy and you find that you are left confused, then it is best to seek help from a Public Adjuster to interpret your policy language for you and make suggestions on how to better cover your home for the future. You may be surprised you have no hurricane or flooding insurance, for example. It’s best to know this before you face a major incident.
Arrange For An Inspection Of Your Property With A Public Adjuster To Help With Negotiations
Your insurance company might calculate a repair estimate in a different way than other parties. After you file a claim, an insurance company adjuster will arrive at your property to assess the damage. Sometimes, the insurance company might claim it will only cost $10,000 to repair your water-damaged flooring when in reality, it’s going to cost $20,000 from any local contractor. So you may need to be prepared with how to respond to a low settlement offer.
Talk to a local general contractor to get an estimate on how much repairs can be expected to cost. Or, talk to a specialist – like a flooring company or roofing contractor. Many of these specialists provide free estimates, allowing you to get accurate information on how much your repairs will cost.
Once you have an idea of the cost for repairs, if the insurance company has sent you a “low ball” offer it is time to have a Public Adjuster assess the damage. In most states, the Public Adjuster is not allowed to charge a fee unless they are able to recover more money for you, so this is generally free expertise advise on your exact situation.
If your insurance company instructs you to get three bids from local contractors and turn them in, this is usually in their best interests – not yours. Insurance companies work in the same software as Public Adjusters do and the pricing for repairs is updated monthly based on zip code and supply and demand in that area. In most states, contractors are not allowed to “negotiate” with the insurance company or “interpret” policy language to make sure that all damages, both those that are immediately evident and those that could occur as a result of what you can see, are properly paid for.
Important Tip: Call the Police Whenever Necessary
If a crime has been committed on your property, and you need to file a home insurance claim, then you need to contact the police for a police report. Some of the situations where you may want to file a police report include:
- Theft, Robbery or Burglary
- Vandalism or deliberate damage to your home or business
Failing to file a police report after an incident like this can cause your claim to be treated with suspicion or violate terms of your insurance policy contract.
Take As Many Photos As Possible
This is one of the best insurance claim tips we can give. The more photos and videos you take of the damage, the more supporting evidence you have to maximize your insurance claim.
If your home has suffered hail damage, for example, take a photo of a hailstone beside another object to provide a sense of scale. Take clear, well-lit photos of damage from as many angles as possible, and try to keep photos organized in a systematic order. A single photo might be the difference between maximizing your insurance claim payout or having your claim rejected.
Be Present when the Insurance Company’s Adjuster Inspects the Property Location
Make sure you’re on-site when the insurance company’s adjuster comes to visit your property. You can explain exactly what was damaged. You can walk the adjuster through your property and ensure the adjuster takes note of everything.
When the insurance adjuster arrives at your property, give the adjuster a document explaining the damages from your point of view. While large losses usually require a Public Adjuster, more evident damage, like damage caused by a hail storm to your roof, can usually be handled on the first inspection if the adjuster is knowledgeable and thorough with his inspection..
Be Careful with What You Say to the Adjuster
Your insurance company’s claims adjuster is a salaried employee or hired contractor of your insurance company. The insurance company’s adjuster typically wants to help your insurance company pay out the lowest amount legally required on your insurance claim. That’s why it’s crucial to limit what you say to the adjuster.
Answer any questions the adjuster has with a simple yes or no. You are contractually obligated to cooperate with your insurance company and the adjuster (it’s written in your insurance policy). However, you are not required to offer information that is not asked of you.
If you feel uncomfortable with any of the questions that are being asked, it is okay to say “I am not sure, can I get back to you on that?” and then seek the advice of a Public Adjuster. Some statements and questions may seem innocent, but they can cause your claim to be reduced or even denied. Also read our in depth tips on how to properly deal with a home insurance adjuster.
Be Prepared For Misinformation & Negotiations
Many insurance company adjusters are personable: they arrive at your property, they seem sympathetic, and they may assure you that everything is going to be okay.
Then, a week later, you might get a call from your insurance company indicating your claim has been rejected or reduced.
Every time you file a claim with your insurance company, you immediately position yourselves as adversaries with different goals:
- You, the policyholder, wants the highest possible payout according to the terms of your insurance contract
- Your insurance company wants to pay you the lowest amount they’re legally obligated to pay, based on the terms of your insurance policy
Don’t let your insurance company lull you into a false sense of friendliness. Don’t fall for the “I’m here to help” act. Sure, some insurance companies are genuinely personable and happy to cover your claim, but others use friendliness as a powerful negotiation strategy. Approach your insurance claim like a business deal: you’re seeking a settlement with a for-profit corporation.
You should not have to “negotiate” anything like the terms of your agreement with the insurance company that are already spelled out in the language of your policy. Always seek to be fully indemnified for your loss, do not “negotiate” or settle for any less than what is fully owed to you.
Document Everything Related To Your Claim
The more documentation you have, the easier your insurance claim will be to handle. Obviously, it’s important to document all communications with your insurance company, but it’s equally as important to document previous housework work done on your home to mitigate wear and tear or previous damage. Never pay for major home renovations in cash. At the very least, pay with a cashier’s check from your bank or a money order from the post office.
Documentation strategies include:
- Use email to communicate with your insurance company, whenever possible, since it leaves an easily-verifiable record of your conversation
- If you choose to record phone conversations, be aware of your state’s recording laws; some states allow you to record someone without their consent, while others do not; the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has a great summary of state-by-state recording laws here
- If your home damage forces you to move out of your house, then save all receipts for hotel rooms, meals, and other additional living expenses; many home insurance policies cover additional living expenses, which means you will be compensated for these expenses if your home is unlivable after an incident
- Avoid paying in cash, especially for contract work; clear receipts show your insurance company exactly how much it originally cost to install your new flooring, your new roof, and other home costs
- If you don’t want to record phone conversations with your insurance company, then at least make note of the time and date of the conversation, the person you spoke to, and the topic of the conversation
- Write down your claim number and keep a log of all other pertinent details from your insurance claim in a binder or tablet just for the purpose of the claim
- Keep receipts for major assets in your house; if you buy a new big-screen TV, for example, then make sure you have documents proving exactly how much that TV costs
- Avoid keeping documents like receipts in your home; you might have receipts for every major item on your home stored in a shoebox in your basement, only to have those receipts destroyed in a fire or flood; upload pictures of your receipts to cloud storage or make other electronic copies to ensure they’re easily accessible
Avoid Padding a Claim
There may be a temptation to pad or exaggerate your claim. You might make a claim for hailstorm damage on your roof, for example, and then try to claim your decking underneath the shingles was damaged in the same incident.
It may be tempting to get a new decking, but it’s important to avoid padding a claim. This is insurance fraud. Insurance companies lose billions of dollars per year to fraud, and they devote considerable resources to fighting fraud. You will most likely get caught. If you do get caught, it causes the rest of your claim to be regarded with suspicion. This also raises insurance rates for everyone to cover the costs of defending fraudulent claims.
Keep Track of Your Time and Money
Your insurance policy should cover certain living expenses after a disaster. However, it may also cover other time and money you put into an insurance claim. If you spend time repairing damages, preparing for contractors to arrive, and performing other work, then this work could be covered under ‘claim preparation’.
You are taking time out of your life to deal with an insurance claim. With some major insurance claims, dealing with a claim becomes a full-time job. Keep track of the time and money you spend dealing with the claim, as you could receive compensation according to the terms of your policy.
Hire a Public Adjuster To Help Negotiate & Settle Your Claim
Your insurance company’s adjusters are insurance experts. They understand your policy better than anyone. They know the tricks and stipulations that can deny or reduce your claim. They work for your insurance company to lower your claim by as much as legally possible.
So why not hire a public adjuster to represent you and fight back?
A public adjuster is an insurance expert who represents you against your insurance company, fighting to maximize the value of your insurance policy. Your public adjuster will:
- Negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, using industry expertise to increase the value of your claim settlement
- Only charge a fee once you have approved your insurance company’s final, best offer; the agreed upon fee is transparently disclosed in writing upfront
- Help manage your insurance claim from beginning to end, allowing you to focus on more important things in the days following a major incident
- Handle communications with your insurance company, contractors, and others involved in the claims process
- Use proven tips, methods, and strategies to ensure your claim gets covered to the maximum amount possible based on the terms of your insurance contract
For all of these reasons and more, it may be in your best interest to get in touch with a public adjuster for help with your insurance claim.
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