No one wants to file a homeowners insurance claim. It typically means that your home has not only suffered damage, but now you also have to go through the process of filing a claim. This can be cumbersome no matter which insurance company writes your homeowners insurance.
After decades of helping New Hampshire clients through the claims process, here are some tips from the HPM Insurance professionals on what you should do when you experience a claim at your home:
1. Consider if you should file the claim
Homeowners insurance is intended for the loss that the homeowner cannot easily afford. It is not intended to be dipped into as a maintenance policy. It is truly in the insured’s best interest to consider this before automatically filing a homeowners insurance claim with your company.
Why? Though insurance companies are not allowed by NH law to non-renew a homeowners policy if less than two claims are filed, this does not mean that the premium won’t increase. For example, if you decide to file a $900 claim with a $500 deductible, your rate could increase more than what you were paid for the claim over the next few years due to a loss surcharge and/or losing a “loss-free credit”.
However if you suffer a claim that you simply cannot easily absorb, than you should file the claim. That is why you have insurance.
There is no magic claim amount that is crossed to determine “yes, you should file a claim,” or “no, you should not.” Everyone’s situation and finances are different; however, you should consider the amount of possible damage and your deductible before jumping into the claims process.
That said, there is a word of caution. If you decide not to file a claim and begin repairs, only to discover that the claim is bigger than you thought, you may not be able to file the claim after the fact. The insurance company does have a time factor clause in reporting claims, in addition to the right to inspect damaged property. If this process has been jeopardized, this will most likely impact the outcome of the claim. For more information about the importance of prompt claim reporting, please read "What If I Don't Report My Insurance Claim Right Away?"
2. If filing a claim, call your insurance company or agent as soon as possible
Many claims do not conveniently happen between business hours. If you have a large loss, it is important to call your insurance company as soon as possible regardless of the time of day. Most insurance companies have a claims adjuster on-call to handle major claims. It is a good idea to have your insurance company's name, claim phone number and policy number noted somewhere accessible, like your smart phone, in advance of a possible claim. If you are a client of HPM Insurance, you can find your carrier's claim information on the Contact Us tab of the HPM website.
If you have a minor claim or it occurs during business hours, contact your insurance agency to get advice on how to best proceed with your particular situation.
3. Take pictures of damage to support your claim
As you want to provide the adjuster with a clear understanding of what happened and what was damaged, it is always a good idea to take photos and provide them to the adjuster. This can simplify the claims process, because as they say, a picture is worth 1000 words.
4. Protect your property after a claim
It is no secret that the insurance company does not want to pay more money in a claim than required. No business would. Therefore you are required, as indicated within the policy language itself, to take steps to protect your property from further damage following a loss.
If a tree falls on your house and breaks a window during a storm, it is up to you to ensure that there is not driving rain coming into the home causing further damage. If you decide not to do this, the company may not cover the additional water damage, especially if you were home and completely aware the additional damage was occurring.
5. Do not throw anything away
Within the insurance policy, it states that the insurance company has the right to investigate a claim prior to paying. If the adjuster cannot verify the damage, this is very difficult to do.
The most common instance we see of people throwing out evidence of a claim at HPM Insurance is in a water damage claim. Say a water heater breaks and soaks a finished basement. It is critical that you do not discard the carpet or any property as it relates to the claim. This is not to imply that you should not attempt to prevent further damage, as indicated above. It is just critical that you keep all damaged property to ensure the adjuster can properly assess the claim.
Having a claim can be very stressful. That is why it is best to have an advocate on your side to walk you through the process. Independent insurance agencies, like HPM Insurance, can help you navigate those uncertain waters so you can get your home repaired and your life back to normal.
This material is for informational purposes only. All statements herein are subject to the provision, exclusions and conditions of the applicable policy. For an actual description of all coverages, terms and conditions, refer to the insurance company.