Winter Claims: Now What?

January 10, 2014

Homeowners insurance is security for your home and family. We’ve had a rough stretch of winter weather and many of you have called us with claims questions. Many of those questions and concerns are addressed in this article. Let’s start with preparing for a claim.

Preparing for Home Insurance Claims
If you plan ahead, you’re already on the road to being prepared in the event of a loss. Being organized and keeping records can make a huge difference in how smoothly the claims process goes. A few fairly simple things you can do include:

• Take an inventory of your belongings with pictures, video or a written list
• Keep important documents in a fire-proof safe
• Record specific model or serial numbers for items such as electronics, appliances and equipment
• Keep receipts of any purchases of value, including furniture
• Keep records of upgrades to your home

With these records intact, you will find it much easier to document your loss.

In addition to keeping excellent records, be sure to consult with your independent agent about what your policy covers. If you have jewelry, fine art, or collectibles, we can help review your homeowners policy to determine if you have adequate coverage. Your agent will be able to advise you on whether you need to list these items separately and add specific coverage.

If you have jewelry, fine art, or collectibles, we can help review your homeowners policy to determine if you have adequate coverage

Tips on How to File a Claim
You can always call us to file a claim or ask questions before filing, but you can also contact your carrier directly to file a claim after hours or on the weekend. You can find the 24 hour claim line for your carrier on your policy or on our emergency claims contact list.

When you experience a loss, stay calm and take the necessary steps toward recovery:
• First and foremost, remain safe
• If necessary, take measures to prevent further damage
>>> Call the fire department if your house is on fire
>>> Call a restoration company like Hays & Sons, Bolden’s, or Total Restoration if you have a pipe burst or flooding
>>> Call the police if your house has been robbed
• Notify your insurance agent as soon as possible
• Review your policy
• Make a list of destroyed, damaged or stolen property
• Keep a paper trail; make notes on everything you do, receipts of expenses incurred and property replaced

Tips on Filing a Water Related Claim
Some home insurance claims are straightforward. For example, if electrical equipment in your home malfunctions and causes a smoldering fire, or your home is damaged by lightning, you know you need to reach your insurance company and file a claim.

Some of the most common and difficult to understand homeowner issues have to do with leaky basements, dripping walls, broken sump pumps, burst pipes, and other water issues in the home. When is water damage covered, and when is it not?

The basic rule that most homeowners policies go by is this:
• If water drips into your home or blows into your home from a storm, you can file a claim on your homeowners policy.
• If water rises from a local river, runoff, or tidal flood waters, you must have flood insurance to file a claim.

Wet basement claims are some of the most confusing because it can be difficult to tell where the water is coming from. It’s a good idea to get a home remediation expert to look at the situation and help determine the source. If you then decide it is appropriate to file a claim, you will have the information and professional assessment in hand.

Denied Claims
Homeowners insurance claims are generally paid if the damage you are claiming is covered under your policy, and you are up to date on your payments. Examples of denied claims include:

• Filing a flood claim, when you do not have flood insurance. Homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage.
• Filing a claim for damage to your home that happened as a result of your negligence. For example, if you neglect to take down a diseased tree, and it falls on your home, the insurance company may determine that the event was preventable.
• Filing a claim against damage from a cause that is excluded. Each homeowners policy has restrictions and exclusions, so it is important to know your policy. For example, in most cases earthquake damage requires a separate policy.
• Filing a property damage claim on a vehicle, such as a speed boat.

If you disagree with the insurance company’s decision, talk to your us. You choose an independent insurance agent so that you can have an advocate when you talk to your carrier. Provide any supporting documentation such as pictures, appraisals, witness statements, purchase and repair records, and so on. Most insurers will review a claim denial, if appealed.

Have more questions? Give one of our insurance pros a call.