Reporting a claim to your insurance company:
- Be sure there is no unnecessary delay in reporting the fact of the discovery of damage to your insurer as a claim.
- You may receive a reservation of rights letter advising you of your duties under the policy, the conditions that apply or might apply, and the exclusions that may apply to the facts of the loss.
- You can request from the adjuster the identity of respected, competent, and professional contractors experienced in fire reconstruction or the drying out of buildings and the prevention or restriction of further loss including mold growth.
- You should follow up regularly with the adjuster to ensure that he or she is meeting contractual obligations since a catastrophe often makes communications difficult.
- If you without cause, failed to protect the property from further loss, the adjuster must remind you, in writing, of your failure and how that could influence your claim.
- The adjuster should consider advance payments to avoid any unnecessary difficulties so that you and your family will have a place to live while your house is being rebuilt.
Once the rights, obligations, and duties of the insured and the insurer have been stated, and the initial investigation is complete, the insurer is obligated to conduct a prompt analysis of the policy wording and the law to determine whether coverage exists for the damage claimed. Once the investigation is complete and the decision made, it is the adjuster’s obligation to advise you—promptly and in detail—of the decision of the insurer.
Protect All Property from Further Damage:
Every policy requires that the insured protect the property from further loss. Therefore, you should turn off any water flow to broken appliances or pipes, arrange to have openings in roofs or walls covered to protect from rain damage, and seek help from the adjuster to further protect your property from losses of all types. Take any necessary emergency measures to protect the building and personal property from any further damage that are possible to make. Do not throw anything away until permission of the insurance company is obtained in writing and you have documented its condition unless the damaged property presents a hazard to the health or safety of your family or others.
If the insurer delays or refuses to authorize measures to prevent further loss, confirm the insurer’s delay in a fax, an e-mail, and a letter, and take whatever reasonable measures you can afford to protect the property. If your loss is covered, the insurance company should also cover the cost of any reasonable emergency measures you took to protect your property. It is not unusual for an insurer to deny coverage for damage resulting after the initial claim on the grounds that an insured failed to comply with the policy condition to protect the property from further damage.
Document the Loss:
If you were prudent before the catastrophe and prepared an inventory of your contents or took pictures of your contents, provide the adjuster with the inventory and photographs or videotape. Photograph, videotape, and inventory all damaged property after the loss. Make sure you record the date of the photos and videotape. It is important to document the source and the extent of damage whether by fire or water intrusion.
In most states, a material misrepresentation, concealment, or omission made in connection with the claim will give the insurer a valid reason to reject the entire claim. For example, claiming that an item was destroyed that really wasn’t or substantially overstating the value of a damaged item is fraud. In most states insurance fraud is a felony that can place you in state prison if convicted. No catastrophe is so bad as to cause you to attempt to defraud your insurer to make up for uninsured losses.
You should never exaggerate, speculate, or guess about the loss or value of any particular piece of property. Make it clear to your insurer when recollection may not be accurate, when you are estimating a value, and the basis for your estimate. For the value of items you are not sure about on a claim presentation, use the phrase “To Be Determined.” If you do not have receipts to show the price of an item, information can be found in catalogs, statements from retail clerks, bank statements, credit card statements, or statements from family members or friends.
If all else fails, a formal appraisal can be obtained from a professional personal property appraiser. Save this as a last resort, since the insurer will usually refuse to reimburse you for the costs of hiring an appraiser, but may hire one at no cost to you if asked courteously.
“Always Cooperate with the Insurance Company’s Investigation and Handling of the Claim!”
Floods in a Desert?
Many Northern Nevada residents aren’t aware that the Reno/Sparks is actually a flood plain for the Truckee River. And according to the United States Geological Survey, the Reno-Carson river basin experiences a major flood every 3-10 years. That’s pretty often!
Know the Facts.
If you are in a position to do so, flood insurance would be a wise investment. Many people aren’t aware that if flood insurance IS NOT included in a homeowner’s insurance policy, and must be purchased separately. Flood insurance is available to ALL homeowners (and renters!) regardless of whether or not your home is located in a flood zone. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is currently working on a complete overhaul of assessing flood risk maps. This means that when you bought your home, you may have not lived in a flood area but now you might!
Take city and emergency officials’ warning about flooding seriously. If sand bags are available, use them to protect entrances. It is also a good idea to make sure gutters and eaves are clean of leaves and other debris, so that they can do their job of draining. In case of evacuation, have a family evacuation plan and disaster preparedness items ready. Upon evacuation, be sure to shut down utilities, which ensures the safety of you and other emergency personnel.