Today has been like any other day. That is, until the phone in your pocket starts to ring. The person on the other end says something has happened at your home and you need to get there right away. Perhaps a fire has burned the roof or someone broke in and stole some of your belongings. Once you get home you get an idea of how much damage has occurred. But what’s the next step? At this point you need to file a claim with your home insurance company. Yet many homeowners find this process to be confusing and stressful. Understanding how home insurance companies handle the claims can help accelerate the process of reimbursement while also reducing your stress.
The Claims Process
When you file a claim you need to be sure to have the following items:
- Police report
- A detailed inventory of your household items
- Receipts or bills of sale of all items lost or damaged
- Photographs or videos of the damage
Home insurance companies employ adjusters to investigate a home insurance claim. The first step in investigating the claim is to take a report detailing the claim. If there was a crime involved, such as theft or arson, the adjustor may request a copy of the police report. If the claim is for minor damage the adjuster might just request one or more estimates of the damage or more than one estimate. The claim would then be based on the given estimate and the claim paid. In this case the home insurance adjuster may not even visit the home.
In the case of more extensive damage to the home the company will likely come to the home to examine the damage. The adjuster may take pictures and interview the homeowner to get more details. For these more complex claims there will be more paperwork to complete such as estimates claim forms, and statements. If a theft occurs the home insurance claim process may include a request for a police report, proof of purchase for the items stolen, or a recent home inventory with photos.
When a fire has caused damage that you claim your home insurance the insurer may assign your claim to a special investigation unit. They also may look at the initial application for the policy to see if any information was misrepresented. They will also ask for a personal property list. Careful and conservative reporting of the losses is important because if they find that you lied about what you lost the entire claim can be denied. They may even comb through the ashes to look for evidence of the items that were damaged or destroyed.
If there is any suggestion of fraud the investigator may check with police, local pawn shops, and investigate the background of claimant or interview other persons. They may ask for information about your income or debts.
If the home insurance claim appears to be valid after the investigation the insurer will want to settle claim quickly. They will send you a check and often the check will say “paid in full.” They may also ask you to sign a release. Only sign this if the amount of the check will cover the full claim or there will not be any additional costs to claim. For minor damage they may issue a check to you on the spot.
Understanding how an insurer investigates a home insurance claim will help you to get the maximum benefit from your claim. You also will be able to avoid any hint of fraud or misrepresentation. To avoid any surprises, ask your insurance agent if you have any questions about the coverage that you have for your home.