We recently wrote about the process of managing an auto insurance claim; today we look at managing a claim on your Washington Homeowners Insurance. Like auto insurance, you need to be sure to promptly notify your agent or carrier about a loss and your intention to file a claim. Experts advise, though, to take a breath before calling and give yourself time to assess the damage and decide whether or not it will exceed the deductible. If your claim will not exceed the deductible, there is no reason to notify the insurance company and there may be good reasons not to offer their underwriters more information. Treat the damage as a home maintenance issue. In particular, make sure that you don’t allow small damage to grow. For example, if you have a small leak in your roof, you can count on it getting larger. Fix it early. If your insurer discovers you allowed the small leak to progress to a larger one they could argue the damage grew from your negligence, not from a covered event.
When there is major damage and you know a claim will be made, move early to limit the damage and to report it. If the basement floods, don’t wait for the water to go down, do what you can to stop further flooding and call your agent or insurer immediately. Your agent or claims professional can help the information that will be needed to support your claim. When you call, get a claim number, a contact name and a phone number for whoever will be handling your claim.
Read your policy, and make sure you understand what is covered and what the company is supposed to provide. For example, with major repairs, you may be entitled to alternate living arrangements while your home is repaired. Learn what support will be provided and plan accordingly. Your policy will not likely support an extended stay at the Four Seasons, but it should keep you out of a shelter. You need to be aware of the benefits and the limits.
Document the damage to your home. You can take photos or videos of damage to rooms, walls or personal belongings as well as documenting exterior damage. Don’t throw away damaged items, your insurance adjuster is likely to want to see these items; make an inventory of household items and note whether they are damaged, undamaged or missing. If you have already made a household inventory before the damage has occurred, it may help your claim proceed more smoothly. An inventory that includes pictures will give a before/after overview that can help the process greatly.
Stay as calm as you can muster during the claims process. With a major claim, things may proceed more slowly than you hope. Talk with your agent or claims representative and try to get some expectation of a timetable and the steps in the claims process. Don’t hesitate to call to check on progress if there are delays in the timetable; you can reset your expectations if there are explanations you can understand; you can also take steps if there are reasons for delay you do not understand. In general, a claim will proceed most efficiently when all the parties have the information they require.
At Homer Smith Insurance, we work with folks every day who need advice or help in claim situations. Don’t hesitate to contact us for advice or support with your claim.