9 Tips to Maximize Your Homeowner's Insurance Claim
When the worst happens and you need to make a homeowners insurance claim, you should not expect that your insurance company will give you the best offer right away. In fact, it is their job to pay as little as possible while still meeting their obligations to fulfil the policy. Rather than trusting that the insurance claims adjuster is going to give you the highest amount, follow these easy tips to ensure you maximize your homeowners insurance claim.
- Choose a good policy to begin with.
If you want to make sure you are going to be properly compensated for damages, start by picking the right homeowners insurance policy. Choose a company that you can trust, and make sure you choose coverage that is sufficient. If you purchase coverage that won't come close to helping you cover the total loss of your home, you're setting yourself up for failure from the start. Review your policy in depth to ensure your insurance has the coverage you want and need.
- Show them that they can't take advantage of you from the start.
Even the nicest, friendliest, most "neighbor" like insurance agents will still go out of their way to take advantage of you and give you a really low offer in the hopes you'll accept it and move on. It is their job to protect profits and minimize losses. It may be in your best interest to receive the maximum amount, but it is in their best interest to ensure they give you the minimum amount they are required. To dissuade them from taking advantage of you, show them that you are knowledgeable about your policy and the claims process. Have a copy of your policy handy, and know what your policy covers or doesn't cover ahead of time. Make sure you are familiar with the claims process and understand all of your contractual obligations, as well as their own obligations.
- Document, document, document.
Take pictures. When you think you've taken enough pictures, take more. Document everything before you start cleaning any of it and make sure to take photographs of any additional damage caused by the initial incident, such as cracks in the floor or bowing floorboards. Take extensive, detailed notes about everything you can remember. Take notes about phone calls you have with the insurance company, neighbors, witnesses, or anyone else you may speak with over the course of the claims process. This includes any contractors you may ask for estimates for repairs.
- Be polite, always.
While it's understandable you may not be in the best headspace after a disaster, it is always in your best interest to keep your cool when you're dealing with your insurance company. You may be owed compensation if the damage is covered by your policy, but there's little hope the insurance adjuster will be willing to work with you if you yell at them or berate them over the phone. Wait until you are cool, calm, and collected, before you start dialing the telephone.
- Stay on top of the claims process, and keep documenting everything.
Meet every deadline ahead of schedule. Speak to your insurance company at every step in the process. Make sure you get them every piece of information they ask for in a timely manner. If you incur expenses in the effort to stop further damage, or take action to protect your property, keep those receipts. You may be able to add those expenses to your claim for compensation.
- Gather a variety of repair estimates.
Reach out to several different contractors and get an estimate for how much it will cost to repair the damages to your home or property. It's a good idea to figure out a decent range of costs you'll be faced with. When the insurance adjuster gives you a settlement offer, make sure it falls in the mid to higher range of those estimates. Use the estimates and quotes from contractors to argue that the insurance company's settlement offer is too low for a quality repair.
- If some damages were not covered or denied, review your policy again.
Insurance adjusters are humans too, and they make mistakes like the rest of us. If a claim is rejected or some damages were rejected because they are not covered, take the time to review the fine print in your policy before you accept their decision. If you think something should have been covered that was denied, don't immediately give up hope. Give it a second look, appeal the decision, or get a third party to help.
- Consider hiring a public claims adjuster.
Public claims adjusters work on your behalf, and you typically pay nothing out of pocket to work with them as they take a percentage of the final settlement. The public adjuster will also handle the claims process quickly, including negotiating with the insurance company in your stead. Since this is what they do for a living, they are typically very knowledgeable about the overall claims process. They may even know of specific plumbers, building contractors, electricians, or other specialists that they trust to do quality work at a fair price.
- Think about hiring an attorney to fight low settlement offers.
If the insurance company won't raise your settlement amount, consider hiring an insurance claims attorney. They will investigate and help you fight low settlement offers.
The best way to ensure you're getting your money's worth from your insurance claim is to understand your policy, the claims process itself, and recognize that you are owed that money as part of the arrangement you made with the insurance company to begin with. Filing a claim can be a highly stressful process to go through, but following these steps can help ensure that you get the most out of your claim.