When it comes to filing a home insurance claim — whether from fire, robbery, natural disaster, or more — it’s crucial to understand your rights and now the best practices for working with your provider. Here are some steps you can take to help ensure you receive the coverage you deserve.

Maintain an Inventory of Household Items

Before you file a claim, you should create and maintain a detailed inventory of the items in your home. Be sure to itemize the cost of each item. Have your valuables, such as antiques and works of art, appraised if necessary.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to take photos or video of the interior and exterior of your home. Upload your itemized inventory and photos to a site like Flickr or a cloud service so you can access them in the event your computer is damaged.

Know What Your Policy Does (and Does Not) Cover

Before buying a policy, take time to go over it thoroughly with an agent until you understand exactly what it does and does not cover. Many homeowners are unaware that they are underinsured. Most homeowner’s policies do not cover damage or loss from flooding. You may need to purchase optional coverage for damage and loss from flooding, wind, or fire.

Document the Damage

In the event of a disaster, document the damage to your home and property immediately. If temporary repairs are necessary for your safety and to prevent further damage, take photos or video of the damage before you begin the repairs. Don’t throw away any damaged belongings until a claims adjuster has seen them. In the event of a robbery, contact the police immediately, and be sure you receive a copy of their report.

All of the above documentation will help you justify your insurance claim.

Get Ready to Negotiate

Don’t wait to contact your provider. As you make your calls, write down the name and contact information for each person you speak to. Once an insurance adjuster sees the damage to your home and assesses your losses, he or she will determine the amount of your payout. If the payout seems too low, ask the adjuster how they are justifying that lesser amount. Ask the adjuster to refer to specific language in your policy. If you are not satisfied with the payout and the reasoning behind it, contact another person at your provider’s regional or national office.

Consider Hiring a Public Insurance Adjuster

In the event of extensive damage to your home, where the cost of repairs and amount of reimbursement for losses will be well above your deductible, consider hiring a public insurance adjuster. A public insurance adjuster can sort out the language in your homeowner’s policy and possibly negotiate your claim more effectively. Public insurance adjusters typically charge 10 to 15% of the settlement amount. You can find a credited adjuster through the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters.

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