Dealing with your insurance company right after a loss event, be it a water leak or the entire destruction of your home, can be a horrible experience for many. While you pay your insurance premiums every month (and your insurance company never has a problem taking your money) you would only assume that in the unfortunate event your home gets damaged, vandalized, burglarized, etc., your insurance company would gladly assist you in paying out your claim and alleviating an otherwise stressful situation. Sadly, many insurance carriers view your claims with skepticism and attempt to pay you as little as possible or deny your claim all together. And though sometimes there’s nothing you can do except take legal action against a stubborn insurer that won’t help you with a rightful claim, below are several tips that can help you maximize recovery and better your odds when dealing with your so called insurer.
Read your policy! Obvious enough right? Yet most people have never read more than the declaration page (if that even) of their homeowner’s, car, renters, or health insurance policy. If you don’t know what’s covered under your policy, you WILL be taken advantage of. I know it sounds like a total nightmare to sit down and read an entire policy (all 30-plus pages of it, not just the declaration page) but you need to—I promise. You must know what the limits of coverage are under your policy and what is actually covered (and not covered). The last thing you need is to get sued because your dog accidentally knocked someone over resulting in their broken arm and your policy fails to provide coverage for dog related injuries leaving you responsible for the bill. Or having your insurance company only pay you $1,000 for a stolen $15,000 diamond ring because you failed to purchase an additional endorsement.
Understand your policy! Don’t feel bad, the few people that actually read their policy usually can’t understand it anyway. Insurance policies were not drafted with consumers like you in mind. They are drafted by lawyers for lawyers to be used against you whenever possible by your insurance company. If you don’t understand sections of your policy, give me a call and I’ll help you understand what it is you’re paying for each and every month. If you don’t feel like calling me, then call your insurance agent or at the very least google or YouTube the answers you’re looking for.
Make an inventory of everything you value in your home and put a monetary value on each item. In the event of a loss (fire, windstorm, water, theft, vandalism, terrorist attack), you might have a hard time remembering what was lost—especially when you’re stressed out and upset while talking to an insurance adjuster that’s trying to swindle you out of money. You’ll never get paid for claims you don’t make.
Take photographs of everything on your inventory list and regularly take pictures of the inside and exterior of your home. In the event of a loss, you want to clearly demonstrate to the insurance adjuster the condition and existence of all your claimed losses. Thousands of dollars are routinely lost due to homeowners failing to provide adequate proof of damaged, destroyed, or lost property.
Send pictures and inventory lists to your insurance carrier every so often. Who cares if nobody does it and if your insurance company doesn’t ask for it. In the event your insurance carrier ever questions your losses or tries to underpay your claims you’ll be the only person able to tell the adjuster that you sent them proof of your belongings and the current state of your home prior to a loss.
Have an emergency protocol in place in the event of a loss. Your policy requires that you mitigate or lessen the impact of any loss-resulting event. In other words, if a pipe bursts in your bathroom or a hole opens up in your roof, you are required to take action on your own to prevent further damage of your home—this is a requirement in virtually every single policy and could potentially jeopardize your claim if you fail to abide by it. Have tools and materials handy in the event of an unforeseen event. Learn how to shut off the water in each bathroom, the kitchen, and even the entire house.
Keep an eye out for good restoration companies, general contractors, attorneys, public adjusters, etc., that can help you with your claim prior to a loss. Ask around, talk to your friends, look up Yelp reviews, whatever you want. Just make sure you have a potential team ready in the event disaster strikes. The worst time to start looking for these service providers is right after an emergency while the stressful nature of the event can potentially push you into contracting someone who might do more harm than good. The last thing you need is both your insurance carrier and the professional you hired taking advantage of you.
Get your house inspected—especially if it’s old. Most insurance policies will not cover a loss resulting from excessive use or wear and tear. Also, many homeowners are unaware that their policy will not cover a water related loss that’s causing constant hidden seepage over an extended period of time (e.g. behind walls or under sinks). Losses like these can result in mold and dry rot over the years as small amounts of water secretly seep into and behind walls causing very expensive repairs that your insurance company will refuse to pay. Periodic inspections of your home can save you thousands of dollars in the long haul if it can prevent otherwise unforeseen losses.
In the event you’re struggling with an insurance company, be it house, car, health, life, etc., never hesitate to give me a call and I’ll gladly discuss your claim with you (so long as its related to Florida law). In Florida, if you have to sue your own insurance company and you prevail, the insurance company will be entirely responsible for my fee—meaning you never owe us a dime from your own pocket. Consultations are always free at (305) 200-8748.
Thank you all for taking the time to read through this. I appreciate all feedback and hope you will subscribe to my newsletter (if you haven’t already done so) to get free tips and event invites by clicking here or texting CIEZALAW to 22828. Please also “Like” my page on Facebook here.