Whether you have had a minor fender bender or a major catastrophe, having a claim can be very stressful. Given the number of claims that are coming in under home insurance, business insurance and car insurance due to Hurricane Sandy, we thought that everyone could use a few tips on what to do (or not do) if you have a claim.
All Insurance Claims
In every policy there is a section of conditions that spell out your duties after a loss. We would suggest that you review this portion of your policy so there are no surprises, though many of the conditions are things you would most likely do anyway.
- Report the claim as soon as possible
- Notify the police if there was a theft loss
- Protect property from further damage. If repairs required, you must:
- Make reasonable and necessary repairs to protect property, and
- Keep an accurate record of repair expenses.
This condition would apply if say a tree fell on the roof and damaged your home or commercial building. Many clients at Holt Proctor McBriarty Insurance ask if they can remove the tree. If leaving the tree would cause a dangerous situation or more damage, by all means move it! If possible take pictures of the tree on your home and keep all receipts of any expenses paid.
We would also suggest that you contact the appropriate contractor/shop to get an estimate of damages as soon as possible. Insurance companies only have so many adjusters available to them, so when a wide-spread catastrophe happens (like Hurricane Sandy) you may be waiting for the adjuster for several days. Having a professional estimate of damages ready will expedite the settlement of your claim.
Though you should get an estimate of damages, do not make final/permanent repairs unless the adjuster has given you the go ahead. There may be a discrepancy on your estimate and what the insurance company is willing to pay. Open communication, and not assumptions, between you and the insurance company is critical for a positive claims experience.
Homeowner and Commercial Property Claims
Prepare an inventory of damaged property showing the quantity, description, actual cash value and amount of loss. Attach all bills, receipts and related documents that justify figures in the inventory if available. Though this may seem daunting, it is now a lot easier with the availability of information online. It is even easier if you have made an inventory list prior to the claim. There are resources available to help with this process so give your insurance professional a call to discuss.
If your car is not drivable, keep on top of the storage fees and number of days you are renting a car (if applicable). Most car insurance policies have a maximum rental period of 30 days. This does not mean that the insurance company will automatically pay for all 30 days, as it is determined by the estimate of damages submitted to the insurance company. In nearly all cases, even if a total loss, the insurance company will not go beyond the 30 days, so if you suspect a possible total, you should begin looking for a replacement vehicle.
Also be aware that if your car is sitting in storage waiting to be towed to a shop, the facility can charge anywhere from $20 - $80 a day for just sitting there. Be sure you are working with the insurance company to get the car moved as soon as possible; otherwise the insurance company may not pick up all the storage fees.
For more information on filing a claim, visit the NH Insurance Department's web site. Though the press release was written specifically for Hurricane Sandy, it does apply to most property claims.
This blog is in no way attempting to guarantee or interpret coverage for every type of insurance. It is simply advice based on the many years of experience the employees of Holt Proctor McBriarty has had dealing with claims. If you would like specific advice about your policy, we suggest your contact your own insurance professional.