couple reviewing paperwork

Take the claims process one step at a time

If you are filing an insurance claim, chances are something has not gone well. A lightning strike left you with damaged electronics, or a kitchen fire means weeks of restoration and repair. The most important thing to do now is file a claim with your homeowners insurance company. Reporting your claim quickly allows the insurance company to help you navigate the process and protect your investments.

Some claims are more complex than others and may take longer to resolve. Here is what you need to know for a smooth claims process so you can get back to normal.

Insurance Claim process infographic

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Your wellbeing and safety are first.

Keeping your family protected is your priority. If your home is uninhabitable, or you are concerned about the safety of your family, you may need to seek temporary accommodations. Policies that include additional living expense coverage reimburse temporary housing costs depending on the deductible and policy’s coverage. Keep any receipts for your temporary accommodations. If a crime occurred, be sure to report it to the authorities. Your insurer may require a police report as part of your claim documentation.

Prevent further damage

Take the necessary steps to mitigate additional loss. If you have standing water, call a professional and have it removed. If you have damage to water lines, have them repaired. Board up broken windows or doors, and place a tarp over a compromised roof. Work with a licensed professional for all your emergency repairs. Professionals who deal with smoke or water mitigation, and other losses, will approach the damage differently than you might as a homeowner. Keep receipts of any expenses incurred or make temporary repairs, and take photos to document the situation before and after.

Contact your insurance company to report a claim

As soon as you have the urgent situation under control, call your insurance company to report your claim. Your insurance company’s claim representative will give you a better understanding of your policy coverages and any deductibles, and your company’s specific claim process. Ask as many questions as you can think of so you are informed. Then complete the proper paperwork and submit it along with the required documentation. Now you are well on your way to getting back to normal.

Document everything

Documentation has already begun. You’ve captured pictures of the initial damage and emergency repairs. Continue by making a list of the lost, damaged or stolen items. Collect relevant photos or receipts and include as much information as possible–list model numbers, manufacturer name, receipts and provide pictures. All of this information details the extent of the loss.

Keep everything

In addition to detailing the damage, save everything. Do not throw away damaged items or allow a contractor to remove them before your adjuster has completed the inspection. Sometimes it’s a good idea to find a temporary, out-of-the-way space in the garage or elsewhere to set aside items involved in your claim. This might include water, smoke or fire damaged property or soiled carpet padding or other items or repaired plumbing lines.

Prepare for the adjuster to visit

After you file your claim, an adjuster will contact you to discuss your loss. In many cases, the adjuster will visit your property to assess the damages. This is also a good time for you to ask any further questions you might have about the process: what’s going to happen next, when can I start repairs, do I have to work with a specific contractor?

Begin rebuilding your life

With the claims process behind and a reimbursement payment in hand, you can begin the next chapter of restoring your home and personal property to what it was before the loss or damage. Whether you’ll be starting a complete kitchen renovation after a fire or getting a new roof after a storm, it’s finally time to get back to normal.

Avoid scams and fraud

If your claim is related to a larger-scale weather-related disaster, unfortunately, you need to have your guard up so you’re not taken advantage of. Whether you’re looking to have the emergency repairs handled or you’re ready to begin work to rebuild parts of your home, consider taking some of these steps before hiring your contractor:

  • Ask friends and family for references and read online reviews
  • Interview prospective contractors and ask for and check references
  • Understand if any of the job will be subcontracted out during the work
  • Use the right contractor for the right job
  • Check licenses, any previous complaints and verify they have insurance

Filing an insurance claim usually comes on the heels of something less than positive. The claims process is the first step to restoring your home and your property after something happens. It’s undoubtedly going to take some time to complete, but if you follow some of this advice you’ll be back to living your life because you were insured–protection for when life’s worst events happen.