Buying real estate is a significant investment. If you own a home or commercial property, you’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the location, and you likely intend to own it for at least a decade. That means that you will almost certainly need to file a property insurance claim at least once.
According to state insurance departments and underwriter studies, the average homeowner files a property insurance claim once every nine to ten years. These claims could be due to a natural disaster like Hurricane Ian, because of a normal weather event like a hailstorm, or related to another person’s actions like vandalism or car accidents. While the exact reason you need to file a claim may vary, you should expect and prepare for the process in advance.
Property insurance claims are complicated and time-consuming but incredibly important. Understanding how they work can help ensure your claim is honored by the insurance company so you receive the money you need to fix your home. Here’s how the process works and what you need to do to guarantee your claim goes smoothly.
Contact the Authorities If Necessary
Before you do anything else, some emergencies that damage your home should be immediately reported to the authorities. For example, if your home is on fire or a tree has landed on the roof and someone is hurt, call 911 immediately. Take care of the immediate dangers before you worry about insurance.
While it’s less urgent, you should immediately call the police and file a report if your home has been vandalized or burglarized. A police report can be critical evidence when filing your claim later.
Document the Damage
Next, take pictures and videos of your property’s damage once it’s safe. Get photos of the entire scene to show the scale of the incident if you can, then get additional close-up pictures of damage, such as cracks in your walls or stains that may be hard to see from a distance. You can take videos and narrate the damage and incident as well.
It’s better to collect more documentation rather than less. The more images and footage you have, the easier it will be to demonstrate the severity of the damage.
Contact an Experienced Insurance Attorney
When you finally have a moment to breathe, get in touch with a qualified property insurance lawyer. You have too much on your plate to waste time worrying about paperwork and the back-and-forth with your insurance company. Your attorney will work with you to ensure you understand your policy, then contact your insurance company and file your claim. They will verify that your claim is comprehensive and well-written, giving you the best possible chance of receiving the compensation you’ll need to make the repairs.
Begin Emergency Repairs
Depending on the event that damages your property, you may need to begin repairs before your insurance claim is finalized to prevent the damage from getting worse. For example, you can’t wait on insurance funds to start drying out your basement or call a plumber after a pipe bursts. Start these emergency repairs as soon as possible to mitigate additional damage. Your insurance attorney will help you pursue compensation for these costs after the fact.
Show Your Property to an Adjuster
After your insurance lawyer has filed your claim, you will need to show your property to someone with authority to act as an insurance adjuster. The insurer may send its own adjuster. You may have your attorney tour the property as well. These professionals will investigate the damage themselves, confirm any emergency repairs you made, and determine how much damage is eligible for compensation under your insurance policy.
Review the Settlement Offer
Your insurer must provide you with a settlement offer or denial in a timely manner. Your lawyer will most likely advise you not to accept the settlement immediately. Instead, you will review the initial offer carefully, and your lawyer will counsel you on whether it is reasonable.
Sometimes, having an attorney file your claim may be enough to receive an acceptable first offer. However, many insurers attempt to underpay claims to reduce their overall costs, so the settlement may be low. They may even deny claims outright if they think they can avoid paying. In that case, you’ll need to file a dispute.
Dispute Underpaid or Denied Claim
The dispute process allows you to stand up for your rights if your insurer doesn’t honor your policy. If they claim damage isn’t covered when it should be or blatantly underestimate how much it will cost to repair something, your lawyer can help you file a dispute.
Your attorney will:
- Discuss the insurer’s reasoning for denying or underpaying your claim
- Explain why, in their professional opinion, you should dispute the offer or denial
- Manage the process of pursuing a second inspection of your property
- Negotiate on your behalf with the insurer to seek a fair and just settlement
- Take the matter to court if the insurer continues to refuse to honor your policy
Once the dispute is resolved, your attorney will explain your final settlement results and how you can use the funds to perform repairs.
Prepare for Insurance Claims in Advance
Don’t wait until your home has already been damaged to understand how property insurance policy claims work. Instead, educate yourself about your policy and the process in advance, so you know what to do when damage occurs. The best way to prepare as a property owner is to discuss your policy with experienced insurance attorneys like the experts at The Professional Law Group. We have decades of experience helping clients file claims and dispute unfair denials and underpayments. Whether you want to better understand your policy or need to file a claim today, we can help. Schedule your consultation by calling 844-340-5115 or reaching out online.