Your homeowners insurance policy is a legally binding contract between you, the policyholder, and your insurer. Your homeowners insurance claim is a lengthy negotiation about how much your insurance policy should pay for your insured damages. Contract negotiations start when you report your fire loss.
Below are a few important guidelines our public adjusters recommend to make sure your rights and interests are protected while negotiating your fire damage insurance claim.
Meet Your Duties After a Loss
When you report your loss, make sure you can prove you’re performing your duties as required by your homeowners insurance policy, including:
- Taking reasonable steps to mitigate additional damage.
- Contacting the authorities if you think a crime was committed.
- Securing your property against vandalism or theft.
- Providing your insurer with prompt notification of your loss.
- Others — check your policy
Be sure you take numerous pictures of your damages. Note any calls between you and your insurer. Include the date, time, name and title of anyone involved in the conversation. Describe the details, the outcome, and anything that requires follow up. Save invoices and receipts for any claim-related expenses you incur — whether for boardup/mitigation work, additional living expenses, etc. Don’t be shy about asking your insurer to provide an advance on your settlement or reimburse your costs as you incur them.
Negotiating your claim by tending to the details can make all the difference in resolving your claim successfully, especially if a conflict arises.
Take Charge of Your Claim
One of the hardest things to do after a house fire is to manage your insurance claim. Doing so takes time, hands-on involvement, and a level of expertise few possess. Policy interpretation, loss assessment, construction plans and estimates, personal property valuation, and contract negotiations are just some of the skills needed in every house fire insurance claim.
Despite the difficulties, demonstrating your ability to manage your fire claim effectively sends a clear signal to your insurance carrier that you are not a target for underpayment. Proactive claim management includes:
- Abiding all the requirements in your homeowners insurance policy.
- Soliciting independent bids and choosing the contractor(s) you believe will do the best work, not just submit the lowest bid(s).
- Creating a personal property inventory.
- Substantiating what needs to be replaced vs. transported, cleaned, repaired, stored, etc.
- Tracking claim-related expenses.
- Proving the full value of your damages.
- Negotiating a full and fair settlement.
Be a Smart Negotiator
Understand that how you conduct yourself at every point of contact, and whether or not your claim strategy is rooted in your policy provisions, are details your insurance company’s claims adjuster is trained to measure throughout your claim process.
Sadly, some will exploit any weaknesses you show. Others may simply lack the desire and/or expertise needed to dig deep into your loss and account for every dollar you’re owed. Either way, a lack of proactive claim management typically results in a lackluster claim settlement.
Be a smart negotiator. Provide abundant documentation of your damages and proof of what it will cost to return your property to pre-loss condition. Connect the dots with the provisions in your homeowners policy. Then settle for nothing less.
Help is a Click Away
Most people buy insurance policies confident they’ll have the protection they need, should disaster strike. Then, like you, they suffer a loss and quickly find themselves overrun in the claim process.
If, for any reason, you wonder if you can negotiate your fire insurance claim through to a successful settlement, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our expert public adjusters. We work exclusively for policyholders, never for insurance companies. At a minimum, we can do a free claim review, so you can have a pretty good idea of what to expect from your claim. Click below to get your claim review started today.