You have insurance in case anything goes wrong – but do you know what to do if something happens? When a property loss occurs, quick action on your part can help the claims process go smoothly and quickly.
- Make sure everyone is safe.
Safety should also be the number one priority. If an injury has occurred, check on the person and arrange for medical care. If property damage has occurred, make sure that everyone is in a safe location. Watch out for secondary hazards that may occur after a loss event, such as electrocution, fire, and gas leaks. If you are dealing with a car crash, make sure no one is at risk of being hit by oncoming traffic, and use road flares and emergency lights as needed. Call for medical help or police assistance if needed.
- Take steps to mitigate the damage.
Although some damage has already occurred, quick action may prevent additional or worse damage. For example, if the loss involves a burst pipe, turn off the water supply to prevent more water damage from occurring. Also, take steps to protect personal property from damage.
- Contact your agent to file the property damage insurance claim.
When a loss occurs, you should contact your insurance agent as soon as possible. This is important for several reasons.
- First, the insurance agent can help you file the property damage insurance claim and get the claims process started.
- Second, the insurance agent may be able to provide important tips to help mitigate the loss and move the claims process along quickly.
- Third, your insurance company likely requires timely reporting of any loss. If you are late with reporting the loss to your insurance carrier, your coverage may be negatively impacted.
- Don’t admit fault to property damage liability.
Property insurance can include liability coverage. For example, if a guest experiences a slip and fall accident on your property, the accident may have coverage through your property insurance. Auto insurance coverage is typically split into different types of coverage, and state law typically requires drivers to carry liability car insurance.
When dealing with a possible liability claim, it’s important not to admit fault. This does not mean you can’t show genuine concern for someone who has been injured. Absolutely, you should express concern and make sure they receive any care needed. However, anything that could be as interpreted as an admission of fault could be used against you, so try to stick to the facts.
- Collect evidence of the property damage or incident.
If you are dealing with an injury, take photographs of the scene to help show the situation that existed when the injury occurred. If you are dealing with property damage, take photographs of the damage. If you are dealing with a car crash, take photographs of the damage to the vehicle as well as anything else that might help establish the conditions that led to the crash. You may be able to submit these photographs during the claims process.
In addition to photographs, witness statements can be helpful when dealing with a liability issue, such as a car crash or a slip and fall accident. During the claims process, the claims adjuster will likely want to speak to witnesses.
- Find out how your insurance company will handle the property damage claim.
The claims process can be confusing for people who are not used to it, and different insurance companies may have different processes. Talk to your insurance agent about the process.
What is the next step? Most likely, a claims adjuster will contact you to collect the needed information, and then the claims adjuster will determine what payout or repairs are provided under the terms of the policy.
- What is the expected timeline? When should you hear from the adjuster, for example, and when should the claim be settled?
- What can you do in the meantime? For example, if your home is not habitable, does your policy cover hotel expenses? If your vehicle is not usable, does your policy cover a rental?
- What, if anything, do you need to do?
- Do you have options? For example, you may be able to choose between in-person or virtual claims handling.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your insurance agent is there to help you through this process.
- Work with the claims adjuster.
The claims adjuster’s job is to determine the extent of the loss and the coverage under the insurance policy so that the correct claims payment can be issued and repairs can be arranged.
To do this, the claims adjuster may need to read the insurance policy, review the loss report and inspect the damage. The insurance adjuster may also need to read relevant police reports and speak to witnesses. You may need to work with the claims adjuster to provide information and make the site of the damage available for inspection.
If you disagree with the claims adjuster’s determination, you do not need to accept the offer immediately. In the case of a disagreement, the first step would likely be to discuss the offer with the adjuster and determine if an appeal is necessary.
- Work with local companies to repair the damage.
If repairs are needed, your insurance company may recommend vendors that they normally do business with. However, if you have a local company that you would like to work with, you may be able to select them to do the work. The company that does the repairs can have a big impact on the cost, quality and speed.
Companies that may be needed after a property loss include:
- Restoration businesses
- Flooring contractors
- Drywall contractors
- Determine how you can prevent future losses.
It’s too late to prevent the damage that has already occurred, but smart action now may prevent similar instances in the future. For example, if winter weather caused a burst pipe, consider what insulation or other precautions can be used to prevent frozen pipes in the future.
In some cases, new technology can help prevent losses and may be a good investment. This can include smart thermostats, smart leak detectors, and smart security systems.
- Make sure you have enough coverage.
You can’t increase your coverage retroactively to cover a claim that has already happened. However, you can increase your coverage to make sure that the next claim is fully covered.
Look for any gaps in your coverage and see if these can be filled. Also, consider whether your limits are high enough. If the value of your property increases, you will need to adjust your limits accordingly, so coverage that used to be sufficient may no longer be sufficient.
Don’t wait for the next claim. Your insurance agent can help you determine if additional insurance coverage could help you. If you have any questions feel free to contact us.