When to File a Home Insurance Claim
(Determining when it’s worth it and when it’s just not)
You’ve worked hard to become a homeowner, and you want to keep your happy place protected at all costs. You may want to slow down for just a second, though, because not all home mishaps warrant an insurance claim. There are also certain instances in which filing a claim may be possible, but not worth the hassle. Read on to discover all about when and how to file a claim, as well as how to know which instances are worth it and how much your homeowners insurance is likely to cover.
When to File a Homeowners Insurance Claim
The decision of when to file a homeowners insurance claim doesn’t have to be difficult one. Keeping these four major determining factors in mind can greatly help to simplify your decision if you’re ever on the fence.
You should file a homeowners insurance claim if one of the following scenarios applies:
- The loss exceeds your predetermined amount: Some homeowners automatically file claims for any damage that will exceed their deductible, no matter how small the amount. It’s up to you to decide what amount will be your baseline for filing a claim. Consider how much money you’d be willing to pay out of pocket for various incidents, and how much your deductible would have to be exceeded to justify going through the claims process for you.
- The incident could become a liability claim: Any incident that could turn into a liability claim should be reported to your insurance company immediately. Insurance contracts typically state that it’s the policyholder’s duty to report liability incidents, such as injuries, ASAP. It’s best to go ahead and file even if the claim seems minor. The sooner you report an incident, the better chance your insurance company will have at defending you.
- There’s property damage that you can’t fully assess: It’s not always possible to assess the extent of property damage at first glance. Damage may be much more extensive (and costly) than you’re able to determine up front. Until a professional inspection has been done, it’s impossible to know the full extent of the damage or the cost of repairs. It’s best to file this type of property damage as a claim so that you can get the right amount of reimbursement for necessary repairs.
- The damage is too costly for you to fully cover yourself: In the event of a particularly expensive incident, obviously it’s a good time to file a claim to try to secure some financial assistance from your insurance company. It’s also helpful to file a claim for larger incidents because the insurance company will arrange for a professional evaluation of the extent of the damage.
While it’s not really possible to list every potential scenario in which an insurance claim should be filed, having this handful of criteria to go off of will provide a good springboard for you to make your decision. Your independent insurance agent can also help you to determine when filing a claim is appropriate.
How to File a Claim
When you decide to file a homeowners insurance claim, you’ll start by contacting your independent insurance agent. Your agent can help guide you through the process and outline the actions your insurance company will take next. They’ll also be able to help calm your nerves by answering your questions. They can even hook you up with an estimated time frame for the entire claims process.
After you’ve had a chat with your agent, you’ll need to wait to hear from your insurance company. One they reach out, they’ll let you know all the required actions on your part, what step of the process they’re currently on, and what’s next on their end. The insurance company may have to conduct an investigation of the claim you file, which could include getting statements from a third party, or conducting a damage appraisal.
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How Long Does it Take to File a Claim?
The short answer is: it depends. Your insurance company is likely required to send you claims forms within 30 days after you file, but it can take much longer than that for the claim to be resolved (meaning when you get your money). Insurance companies often have 10 to 30 days to accept a claim receipt, and up to an additional 40 days to decide whether they’ll accept or reject the claim. If a claim is accepted, the insurance company may take several weeks or even months to pay out the claim amount.
Patience is key during the claims process. Some claims can take up to a year or more to be fully resolved. Be sure to stay in touch with your independent insurance agent all throughout the process, too. Let them know the status updates as they happen so they can stay informed.
Is Filing a Claim Worth it?
Really, no one can answer this question except for you, and it comes down to each specific scenario. If you’ve based your decision on when to file a claim by the major criteria outlined earlier, odds are good that filing a claim could be well worth it. That being said, some people just don’t like the hassle of a lot of paperwork and waiting around. And who could blame them? That’s why whether filing a claim is worth it or not really comes down to a matter of personal preference.
That all being said, whenever you file a claim, there’s always a risk of the insurance company raising your future premiums. Some homeowners just don’t want to risk an incident being documented on their claims history unless absolutely necessary, while others are much more willing to take that trade-off for the benefit of financial reimbursement. Unfortunately, in the end you’ll have to be the one to determine what makes filing a claim worth it or not.
How Much Will My Homeowners Insurance Cover if I File a Claim?
So you’ve filed a claim and it’s been accepted by your insurance company. Great start, but now you’re likely wondering just how much your insurance company will cover. Well, after paying your deductible, you’ll be responsible for paying any amount exceeding your homeowners insurance policy’s limit for whatever category the incident falls under, such as personal property or dwelling coverage (i.e., if something happens to the home’s structure).
A standard homeowners policy has a deductible that’s typically one percent of the home’s value — so if your home is worth $300,000 and the incident falls under the personal property category of coverage, you might have to exceed $3,000 in stolen or damaged personal property before getting reimbursement. Your reimbursement amount will be determined by your specific policy and if it includes coverage for property’s full replacement value or if depreciation is factored in.
If the incident falls under the dwelling coverage category, the limit is often ten percent of your home’s total value. So if you’ve got a $300,000 home, your dwelling coverage may be limited to $30,000. You’ll still have to exceed your deductible amount before the insurance company’s reimbursement will kick in.
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TrustedChoice.com Article | Reviewed by Paul Martin
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