As public adjusters, we’ve helped hundreds of families negotiate their homeowners’ insurance claims. For over 15 years, we’ve taken cases involving fire damage, water damage, earthquakes, floods, theft, and wind damage. While every claim is unique, there are certain trends we’ve seen throughout our years of experience. Here are the common mistakes homeowners make when it comes to the claims process.
In this article, we’re sharing some common mistakes that homeowners make throughout the claims process, along with our tips to help you reach a speedy settlement! This guide will be most helpful if you have yet to file a claim, or if you’re in the early stages of your claim.
Tip #1 – Be proactive when you spot problems!
While it’s understandable that you may not want to call a repair service before speaking to your insurance provider, it’s important to be proactive when you suspect damage to your home. The truth is, your insurance company wants you to act on situations as they arise, meaning that if you find out that pipes are leaking, your kitchen floor is hot, or you’ve seen stains on the walls and ceilings – your insurance company wants to see that you’ve acted immediately to resolve the problem, and stop the damage from becoming bigger.
During the claim’s investigation process, your corporate adjuster will ask when you first identified the problem, what you saw/heard, and what you did about it. Some policies will limit the time you have to act upon issues.
Of course, financial concerns can make it feel daunting to act on problems immediately. After all, you may be worried that you will not be reimbursed! When you’re feeling stressed about your claim, remember that your insurance provider is a business, and they want to encourage policyholders to take responsible action that minimizes the cost of repair.
If you’ve taken action, such as hiring a professional repair service, in order to minimize the damage to your home – you are acting within your policy. Although it is possible that your provider will deny your reimbursement request if they determine the service was unnecessary and/or the chargers are unreasonable, you have a very good chance to be reimbursed for some of these repair costs that you’ve paid up front while acting in good faith and with the intent to minimize the damage.
Tip #2 – Insist on structural safety!
If your home has sustained structural damage as the result of an accident, it is critical that you check for the presence of asbestos and lead in the structure. Many homeowners don’t think about asbestos during restoration. In fact, misinformation about the substance is prominent even within the construction industry.
Many people believe that asbestos cannot be present in buildings that were constructed after 1978. This is an incredibly common misconception. The truth is, any structure, regardless of construction date, needs to be checked for hazardous materials before demolition can begin. If the structure needs to be demolished, removed or dried, or if someone needs to touch it in any way – the emergency company should contact a special testing company.
While you may be tempted to enter your home after an accident, you should always prioritize your safety. No one should be allowed to touch the structure – including the walls, floors, and ceilings – without safety testing. It’s important to advocate for your health and the health of your family and pets, by insisting on structural inspections before any demolition and/or restoration can begin.
Tip #3 – Don’t give in to exhaustion!
Our final tip for the insurance claims process is easier said than done. It’s no secret that dealing with your insurance provider is stressful. Throughout your claim, you’ll need to keep detailed records of your expenses and collect receipts even for small purchases. Furthermore, if you’ve been forced to relocate during restoration, that can take an emotional toll on your family. We’ve seen many homeowners who are tempted to settle their claim for less than they deserve simply because they want negotiations to be over.
Remember: if you give in to your frustration and settle your claim too early, you can miss out on benefits that you are entitled to under your policy.
Dealing with a corporate adjuster is time-consuming and tiresome, but ultimately necessary to ensure that your home is restored to a pre-loss condition. These company adjusters don’t want to scam homeowners, but they are obligated to protect the insurance company’s bottom line. By contrast, public adjusters can represent you in the claims process. While you do not need to retain a public adjuster, many homeowners find it helpful to have an advocate with insider knowledge of the insurance industry.
If you have any questions about your homeowners insurance claim, or if you’d like to learn more about working with a public adjuster, do not hesitate to contact us! My name is Avner Gat, and I can be reached on my personal line at (818) 917-5256.