Preparing the Northwest

brought to you by NW Insurance Council

Tips For Filing Claims

Each year, insurance companies help millions of customers recover from the devastating effects of natural disasters by paying billions of dollars in claims on covered losses.  Recovering from a disaster can be a traumatic experience for families and businesses.  Having a firm understanding of how the claims process works can help you save time, money and anxiety.

Here are some tips to consider if your home, vehicle or business is damaged or destroyed by a disaster:

  • Understand how your policy works.  Review your insurance policies with your insurance agent or company to see what is - and isn't - covered.  Ensure you have adequate insurance to cover any losses.  If you’re a business owner, be sure to consider including Business Interruption insurance and property insurance to your policies.
  • Coverage and exclusions can differ significantly from policy to policy.  Be aware of the amount of your policy’s deductible, the amount of money you are responsible for paying first before insurance kicks in.
  • Ask your insurance agent or company representative to explain anything that you don't understand.
  • Create an inventory of your home or business contents, including equipment essential to your business operations.  Having a detailed inventory will help your insurance adjuster assess the damage more quickly and get you back on your feet.  Take pictures, keep receipts, contracts and other important documents associated with your belongings or equipment.  Free, downloadable Home Inventory Software is available from the Insurance information Institute and can be accessed through NW Insurance Council at http://www.nwinsurance.org.
  • Small and mid-sized business owners can take advantage of the Open for Business toolkit, presented by the Institute for Business & Home Safety.  This is a web-based, interactive property-protection and planning tool specifically designed for small and medium-sized businesses.  Open for Business can help you develop effective mitigation and recovery plans following a catastrophic loss: http://ibhs.org/business_protection.

How to make a claim

Contact your agent or insurance company and provide them with the following:

  • A complete description of the damage
  • A phone number where you can be reached

Your agent or company representative will report the loss immediately to your insurance company or to a qualified adjuster who will call you as soon as possible to inspect the damage.

In the meantime...

  1. Protect your home from further damage.  Make whatever temporary repairs you can, such as covering broken windows and holes in the roof or walls.  Keep your receipts because your insurance company will reimburse you for reasonable expenses you incur by making temporary repairs to property damaged by covered perils.
  2. Do what you can to salvage and protect damaged building equipment.
  3. If you can, secure a detailed estimate for permanent repairs from a reliable contractor and give it to the adjuster.  The estimate should contain detailed specifications of the proposed repairs and detailed repair costs and replacement prices.
  4. Prepare a detailed inventory, including photographs, of all damaged or destroyed personal property.  Provide one copy to the adjuster and keep a copy for your records. Your list should be as complete as you can make it and should include:
    • Serial number and description of the item.
    • Date of purchase or approximate age.
    • Cost at the time of purchase and estimated replacement cost today.
    • It is very helpful to provide canceled checks, invoices, receipts or other document that will assist the adjuster in obtaining the value of the destroyed property.
  1. Don't throw out damaged furniture and other expensive items as the adjuster will want to see them.
  2. Don't get permanent repairs done until after the adjuster has approved the price.  If you've received bids, show them to the adjuster.  If the bids are too high, ask the adjuster to negotiate a better price with the contractor you would like to hire.
  3. When it’s time to do repairs, use only licensed, reputable building contractors and be sure they get the proper building permits.
  4. Obtain repair estimates for furniture or other personal property.
  5. If you must leave your home, be sure it is secured and protected from further damage.  Let others know where you can be reached.

In conclusion ...

After your claim has been settled and the repair work is underway, take some time to evaluate your Homeowners Insurance policy. Talk with your insurance agent or company about any possible changes.

If you have questions regarding your coverage, making a claim or settling a claim, call your insurance agent or your company.  NW Insurance Council offers these free brochures to assit you, Your Guide to Insurance and Are You Ready? Preparing Your Family, Home & Business for the Next Disaster.