AFTER A LOSS:
Managing the Claims
of reconstructing your home following a loss can be long and laborious. Often
before you can begin rebuilding, you have to navigate the insurance claims
process. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) knows
that consumers are often confused and stressed by the claims process, and
offers this summary to help manage the experience.
- Call the company or visit a mobile claims center to
start your claim. If you cannot locate the company or agentÕs number,
call your state insurance department. The NAIC can help you contact your
state department. Call 1-866-470-6242 or go to map.naic.org.
- While your first instinct following a disaster may be
to start cleaning up, it is important for your insurer to have an
accurate account of the destruction. Before moving any debris or
removing damaged belongings, make sure to take photos or video of the
damage. Make a list to document these losses. If possible, save damaged
items for the representative from your insurance company to review. You
should also take reasonable steps to avoid further damage to your home.
- Even following a major disaster, most insurance
companies have a time requirement for filing a claim. When calling to
report the loss, have your policy information handy, along with current
contact information and your home inventory, if you have one. Ask if
your insurer plans to waive or extend claim-filing deadlines.
- A homeowners policy only covers damage to your home
and its contents, and a renterÕs policy only covers belongings. If your
car was damaged, a separate claim will need to be filed with the auto
- A typical homeowners or renterÕs policy does not
cover flood damage. If you have a policy with the National Flood
Insurance Program (NFIP), contact your agent or insurer to file a claim
for that policy as well. Damage from a storm surge is considered flood
two types of claims adjusters: company adjusters, who are sent by your
insurance company and public adjusters, who are independent contractors.
- Company adjusters are direct employees of your insurance company. In
most cases a company adjuster is going to be the first person to survey
the damage to your home. A company adjuster will not charge you for
- Public adjusters work for you, the insured, not the insurance
company. They are paid from the proceeds of your claims settlement,
typically as a percentage of the total amount you receive. Not all
states allow public adjusters, but in states where they can work, they
must be licensed by the state insurance department. Before engaging a
public adjuster, be sure they are licensed and ask for references and
qualifications. In addition, the adjuster should provide the fees for
these services in writing. You may choose to hire a public adjuster if
the claims settlement you get from your insurance company does not meet
your expectation. The public adjuster will work with the company to try
to negotiate a better settlement.
- After you have filed your claim, the insurance
company will arrange to send a claims adjuster to your home to assess
the damage. The company adjuster will want to see all the damaged items
you have removed from the home and any photos or video you have of
things you removed to make the home safe. Generally, the more
information you can provide the adjuster about the loss, the faster the
claim can be settled.
- The company adjuster will walk through your home to
look at the damage. If your home was damaged in a storm they may also
want to look at the outside of your home, your roof or your basement.
- The claims adjuster will provide the documentation
and their assessment of the loss to your insurance company to help
determine your claims settlement.
- If your insurance company is not responding promptly
to your claim, do not hesitate to call the claims department and find
out if an adjuster has been assigned. Verify that they have your correct
contact details, especially if you have had to evacuate your home. Your
state has rules governing the claims handling practices. Call your state
insurance department if you do not think your insurance company is
responding quickly enough, or completing a reasonable investigation of
- If there are disagreements between you, the insurer
and the adjuster, first try to resolve them with your insurer. Do not
feel rushed or pushed to agree with something you are not comfortable
with. It might help to have your contractor meet with you and the
insurance adjuster. If you cannot reach an agreement with the company,
call your state insurance department to see if you have an arbitration
or mediation option.
- If you hire a public adjuster, they will review your
insurance policy and then go through the same process of documenting and
assessing the loss to your home. This may include a builderÕs quote of
the cost to rebuild, or even surveying the costs of items in the area to
determine if they have increased since a widespread disaster.
of the Claim
- When it comes to paying your claim, you may receive
multiple checks. The first will likely be an emergency advance on the
larger payment. The payment for the contents or personal property will
be made out to you. However, if there is a mortgage on your home, the
payment for structural damage may be payable to you and your mortgage
holder. Lenders may put that money into an escrow account and pay for
the repairs as the work is completed.
- If the contractor finds hidden damage that was not
discovered in the original assessment, contact your insurance company to
resolve the difference. The adjuster and the contractor may choose to
meet at the house to review the newly discovered damage. If you cannot
resolve the difference, contact your state insurance department to see
what recourse you have.
- Even after you have settled your claim, if you think
of items that were not in your initial loss list, contact your insurance
company. Unless it has paid the entire limit for the coverage of those
types of items, it is possible the company will cover the loss.
- In major disasters federal agencies provide grants
and low-interest loans to assist with recovery. Check with the local
disaster center or your state insurance department for more information
if your loss exceeds the insured value of your home.
affected by Superstorm Sandy can find much more information about the claims
process and how their state insurance department can help on their websites.
Find a link to those sites here.
information about filing a flood claim with the NFIP here.
without insurance or who find they do not have enough coverage for the
damages their home sustained can register for FEMA assistance here.