You have paid premiums, now you have a claim because your property got damaged. How does that work?
Give Notice Early – Contact the insurer to give notice of claim. The initial notice need not be detailed.
You Are Your Claim # – Know your Claim # – this is the key to the door for the insurance system. Future contact with the insurer should always include this.
Capture What They Capture – When the adjuster visits, take pictures of what they are taking pictures of. Show anyone who is helping you value the claim. There may be places where the insurer knows to look for water damage (bottom of joist between floor and wall) that you might not consider.
Get Realistic Estimates – Get a licensed builder to estimate the repair job for you. The adjuster works for the insurer, a licensed local builder will know costs in the current market often better than out of town adjusters. For an even better damage estimate, get two licensed builders to price up the work. Don’t think that a crazy high number from a confederate will help. Insurers know roughly the $/ square foot cost of repairs. Consider if you need a Public Adjuster. If so, they will identify all the damages and charge you for their services from any recovery.
You Are Out the Deductible – at least. Your policy has a deductible, any claim will begin after that amount.
Value of Claim is Set by Policy Terms – Your policy describes the property damage claims as either fair market (depreciated) value or replacement cost (to buy a new one). You need to prepare yourself for the disappointment if your coverage provides fair market value for damaged goods because used goods depreciate faster than you would imagine. Your sentimental value is not an insurance standard. Insurers pay only what the policy text in your agreement says they have to.
Fill the Insurer’s File – Support your claim for damage with reasonable estimates from reputable contractors, with purchase receipts, pictures, anything that establishes value.
Be Nice – Be nice to the adjuster. They have lots of files. They can remember you for any number of reasons. You want to be the claimant who is nice and has strong support for their covered claims. If they need something, get it for them.
Prepare to wait. Property losses occur in an instant, property damage insurance claims crawl. Before you can even talk about the full value of your claim, you will need to fully appreciate the full extent of them.
Legal rock fights are expensive. If you and the insurer cannot agree, often the dispute is sent to an master to determine the amount of the payout – if any.