Damage to your home or property can be one of the most stressful and confusing experiences for you or your family. Your home is a symbol of your family, safety, and success. It’s difficult to navigate an assessment of significant damage — and have repairs made, based on that assessment. Consistency and reliability between insurance adjusters, agents, and qualified contractors can be fleeting as you examine the small print of your policy. With a few sensible steps, though, you can make the whole process less bewildering and frustrating.
Prepare a game plan.
Avoiding panic is easier said than done, but the first critical step you can take to reduce stress is to establish a game plan. Educate yourself now so if possible catastrophe strikes, you know the process. Sit down with your agent and map out what your options will be, how much say you have in choosing a contractor, and the timeframe to expect for completed work, payment, or reimbursement. A large part of the stress that people feel during these intense times is based on the unknowns. Who pays for what? What percentage is covered? Is the claim worth the hassle? Already being knee-deep in water due to a flood is not an optimal time for evaluating your policy. Start now and be ahead of the game.
Determine your policy’s details.
Clear communication between you and your agent can solve any problems or questions in this area. Every policy is different. Familiarize yourself with your specific policy so that you know what damages are covered. If you are concerned about flooding, hail, or possible snow-related damage, make sure you talk to your agent about these concerns so your policy can reflect them accordingly. Research any preventative measures you need to take to guarantee appropriate coverage. While certain coverage might be necessary or recommended for environments or mortgage situations, you and your agent should base your options on your specific needs.
Evaluate whether the claim is justified.
The claims process can be tricky in terms of actual costs accrued. Every policy will have a deductible, but the amount can vary based on what you and your agent decided for your policy. Be practical. If, for example, your deductible is $1000 and the cost to fix the property is $1100, you are looking at a minimal amount due to you in relation to possible premium hikes. However, if you have that exact same $1100 worth of damage but have a lower deductible, then it could be very justifiable to file the claim. Keep in mind that if you have a higher deductible, you are generally paying a lower premium for service, so your savings vs. cost calculator should be reflected in your history with that specific policy.
Be involved in the process.
While elements of the claims process are out of your control, be aware of what you can impact. Review your adjuster’s worksheet carefully and note any damages or needs you think are missing from the adjuster’s evaluation. If services like cleaning or debris removal are not included, let your representative know quickly. Dealing with your adjuster professionally and courteously can make your claims experience go more smoothly. Recognize that adjusters are the experts, but do indicate if you believe aspects have been overlooked in your damage summary. Many insurance companies will issue separate checks based on each category of damage, so ask for a detailed breakdown of settlement amounts per your policy. Create your own file to save any paperwork pertaining to your claim, including contractor bills, adjuster’s worksheets, and copies of personal checks you write along the way.
Find a quality contractor.
As damages are evaluated and repaired, you may that feel you are in a vulnerable situation. You know the extent to which the damages impact your daily life, and you’re aware of the estimated costs to fix those concerns. However, you might not have performed the research necessary to find a quality contractor to perform the work. Of course, this is the essential step, and it pays to know you have a quality contractor.
Many avenues exist to locate a contractor who will restore your home and peace of mind. My own company, Claims Made Easy, was created because I went through the process of trying to find a qualified contractor after a property of mine was damaged. I found it difficult, time-consuming, and, ultimately, unreliable. We work to alleviate the stress homeowners feel during this part of the process by providing homeowners with professional and reliable contractors who work in a number of specialized fields. Ensure that you find a contractor you are comfortable welcoming into your home.
As protective and cautious as we might be with our homes and property, accidents do occur. Taking the essential steps to guarantee you are prepared and knowledgeable about the nature of insurance claims and property repair can alleviate worry and hasten the entire process. A sensible game plan, clear communication about your policy, a trustworthy contractor, and your own diligent research can, once again, make your house a home.
Troy Fairchild is co-founder and CEO of Claims Made Easy, a web-based solution simplifying the insurance claims process for homeowners. Troy is an entrepreneurial thought leader and an expert on the insurance claims process. He welcomes anyone to reach out to him on Twitter or Google+.
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Category: Family & Home