Keep calm and submit a strong insurance claim
When disaster strikes—a robbery, a fallen tree, a natural disaster—it’s best if you’re prepared to make a homeowners insurance claim.
Whether you’re researching in preparation for future incidents or you’re trying to handle a bad situation right now, read our tips for filing a claim with your insurance company to guarantee you get the payout you need to get your home back to its former state.
1. Plan Ahead for Future Claims
If disaster hasn’t struck yet, plan for it now. Create an inventory of all your belongings, which should include:
Date of purchase
Price you paid
This step is important for two reasons. First, it allows you to calculate the value of all of your goods and make sure your insurance policy covers them all. If you have $200,000 worth of items, your policy should cover at least that much in personal property protection. This information will also be useful when you need to make a claim and list the value of anything damaged or stolen.
In addition, make sure you fully understand your insurance policy, including what it covers and what it doesn’t and how you will be paid out (cash value vs. replacement cost). You don’t want to waste time filing a claim for something that won’t result in a payout.
2. Document Every Part of the Incident
After the incident, whether it’s a natural disaster, a robbery, or something else, take photos of all the damage to your home and personal property. Use bright lighting and take pictures from multiple angles. It’s also helpful to place a common item, such as a dollar bill, into the frame where there is damage to your home so your insurer can see the extent of the damage at scale.
3. File The Claim as Quickly as Possible
Many insurance companies have smartphone apps that allow you to quickly file a claim as soon as you discover the incident. While you will likely need to send in supporting documentation, opening the claim starts the process, which could be lengthy.
With that said, if the damage is minor and the repairs or replacement cost will be less than your deductible, consider not filing a claim at all, which can cause your insurance rate to increase. If you’re on the fence, read the fine print in your policy again to weigh your options.
4. File a Police Report (If Necessary)
If the damage resulted from theft or vandalism, your insurance company may require a police report. Call your local precinct—don’t call 911 unless there is a true emergency, such as an injury—and have an officer formally assess the situation and file the proper paperwork. Don’t forget to get an extra copy for your records.
5. Make Emergency Repairs
If your windows broke and you need to board them up, do it unless it’s unsafe to—you don’t need to wait for the adjuster to arrive. Waiting to fix immediate issues that could cause additional damage might cause problems with your claim. For instance, if you don’t board up that window and a thief breaks in and steals your jewelry overnight, your insurance might not cover the theft. Keep your receipts, take photos, and document why the urgent repairs were necessary so you can submit these expenses as a part of your insurance claim.
6. Get Estimates for Repairs
If your home has experienced damage, get price estimates from local contractors and other professionals to get a sense of how much the repairs will cost. When your insurance company comes in with their settlement offer, ensure it’s in line with the mid-to-high range of the estimates, so you know it will be enough to cover all the work.
7. Get to Know Your Insurance Adjuster
While the claim is open, your insurance adjuster will frequently be in touch. You will discuss the damage, and submit all your photos, receipts, police report, and other documentation to them. Keep in mind that the adjuster represents the insurance company, and will be looking to minimize the payout any way they can.
If you are nervous about this interaction, consider hiring a public insurance adjuster; these professionals manage insurance claims for the policyholder and will advocate on your behalf with the insurance. However, you can expect to pay them around 15% of the final claim amount for their service.
8. Submit Documentation on Time
Your adjuster will provide a due date for any supporting documentation, and you should make sure to meet or beat that deadline to not slow down the claim process or invalidate your claim.
9. Review the Settlement Offer Carefully
Once your insurance company has submitted a settlement offer, review it carefully to ensure everything is accurate and the payout is what you are expecting. If not, contact your insurer to review the claim a second time with any additional documentation you have to support your case.