Home Insurance Claims

How and When to File Homeowners Insurance Claims

The point of owning homeowners insurance is so that you can file a claim, instead of paying out of pocket, if your home is damaged, destroyed, or you are burglarized. And yet the last thing you probably ever hope to do is file a home insurance claim. The good news is that whether you have a small burglary claim or your home has been severely damaged by a storm, the claims process does not have to be a nightmare.

If you need to file a claim right now, contact your insurance company directly. Or, if you are insured through an independent agent in the Trusted Choice® network, your agent can provide all the assistance you need to navigate the claims process. When you are looking for a local professional who can help you from the moment you sign your home purchase agreement to the day you need to file a home insurance claim, find a local member agent in the Trusted Choice network.

Home Insurance Claim Statistics, 2006-2010

  • 5.7% of insured homeowners filed home insurance claims
  • 92% of home insurance claims were for property damage
  • Average fire, lightning and debris removal claim: $31,762
  • Average wind and hail claim: $6,476
  • Average theft claim: $3,057

Preparing for Home Insurance Claims

If you plan ahead, you’re already on the road to being prepared in the event of a loss. Being organized and keeping records can make a huge difference in how smoothly the claims process goes. A few fairly simple things you can do include:

  • Take an inventory of your belongings with pictures, video or a written list
  • Keep important documents in a fire-proof safe
  • Record specific model or serial numbers for items such as electronics, appliances and equipment
  • Keep receipts of any purchases of value, including furniture
  • Keep records of upgrades to your home

With these records intact, you will find it much easier to document your loss.

In addition to keeping excellent records, be sure to consult with your insurance agent about what your policy covers. If you have items of exceptional value, such as jewelry, fine art or collectibles, review your homeowners policy to determine if you have adequate coverage. Your agent will be able to advise you on whether you need to list these items separately and add specific coverage.

Additionally, make sure you talk with your agent about what happens in the event that your home becomes uninhabitable. Are you covered for temporary housing? Knowing that you have the coverage in place to meet your family’s needs in the event of a severe loss will provide peace of mind.

Tips on How to File a Claim

Although each insurance company has a different claims process, there are some general guidelines for what to do to make the claims process go more smoothly.

When you experience a loss, stay calm and take the necessary steps toward recovery:

  • First and foremost, remain safe
  • If necessary, take measures to prevent further damage
  • Notify your insurance agent as soon as possible
  • Review your policy
  • Make a list of destroyed, damaged or stolen property
  • Keep a paper trail; make notes on everything you do, receipts of expenses incurred and property replaced

If you’ve been the victim of theft, notify the police as soon as possible, as well as your bank and credit card company. Be sure to keep copies of any police reports.

Tips on Filing a Wet Basement Claim

Some home insurance claims are straightforward. For example, if electrical equipment in your home malfunctions and causes a smoldering fire, or your home is damaged by lightning, you know you need to reach your insurance company and file a claim.

Some of the most common and difficult to understand homeowner issues have to do with leaky basements, dripping walls, broken sump pumps and other water issues in the home. When is water damage covered, and when is it not?

The basic rule that most homeowners policies go by is this:

  • If water drips into your home or blows into your home from a storm, you can file a claim on your homeowners policy.
  • If water rises from a local river, runoff, or tidal flood waters, you must have flood insurance to file a claim.

Wet basement claims are some of the most confusing because it can be difficult to tell where the water is coming from. It’s a good idea to get a home remediation expert to look at the situation and help determine the source. If you then decide it is appropriate to file a claim, you will have the information and professional assessment in hand.

When Are Homeowners Insurance Claims Denied?

Homeowners insurance claims are generally paid if the damage you are claiming is covered under your policy, and you are in good standing with your home insurance payments. Examples of denied claims include:

  • Filing a flood claim, when you do not have flood insurance. Homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage.
  • Filing a claim for damage to your home that happened as a result of your negligence. For example, if you neglect to take down a diseased tree, and it falls on your home, the insurance company may determine that the event was preventable.
  • Filing a claim against damage from a cause that is excluded. Each homeowners policy has restrictions and exclusions, so it is important to know your policy. For example, in most cases earthquake damage requires a separate policy.
  • Filing a property damage claim on a vehicle, such as a speed boat.

If you disagree with the insurance company’s decision, talk to your agent. Provide any supporting documentation such as pictures, appraisals, witness statements, purchase and repair records, and so on. Most insurers will review a claim denial, if appealed.

Do Bad Homeowners’ Fraudulent Claims Affect Me?

People who make false or exaggerated claims cost the insurance industry an enormous sum each year, which unfortunately must be passed on to well-meaning homeowners who work with insurance companies honestly. Examples include homeowners setting fire to their own homes and claiming that it was an accidental fire.

Today insurance companies have sophisticated methods to detect fraud. They study claim patterns and statistics, and are alerted when an unusual type or amount of claim is made. Industry experts also study various schemes in order to detect suspicious claims.

Filing a fraudulent insurance claim is against the law. False and exaggerated claims hurt everyone. If you are aware of someone filing these types of claims, report that fraud to your state insurance association or to law enforcement.

How an Independent Agent Can Help

If you are shopping for homeowners insurance, and you want the help of a local professional in the event that you must file a claim, contact an agent in the Trusted Choice network. Your agent can answer your questions about coverage, guide you through the steps to file a claim when the time comes, and help you recover from the loss.

Independent agents live and work in the local communities they serve, and are committed to serving each customer the way they would want to be treated. Reach out to an independent agent today for customized quotes and quality coverage that meets your family’s needs.

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