28 Aug How to File a Homeowners Insurance Claim
Do you know the steps you should take after experiencing a loss to your home or belongings?
The ICNE team hopes that you never have to experience a serious catastrophe, like a fire or severe weather event. But, if you ever do have such a loss, we hope that it will take some stress out of the situation knowing that the ICNE team’s priority will be to assist you with your claim and to help get your home – and your life – back to normal as quickly as possible.
We believe we can provide you with some additional peace of mind in the event of a major home insurance claim by sharing our knowledge about the claims process, including how it works, your role and responsibilities in the process, and what resources will be there along the way to support you.
How the Home Insurance Claims Process Works
Should you experience any type of peril that is covered by your home insurance, like a tree falling on your home, a fire or smoke damage, or a break-in, the priority is always to make sure you and your loved ones are out of harm’s way and to call the proper emergency personnel for help.
Next, when your home is deemed safe, it’s time to reach out to your insurance provider to inform them of the situation, as they will want to help you survey your property and belongings for damage. In addition, right after a loss occurs and before any emergency repairs are made, it’s a good idea to take photos of any damages with your cell phone, which can then be easily shared with your adjuster.
If you are an ICNE client, then getting in touch with your insurance company is as easy as going to our File a Claim page and finding your insurer’s name, phone number, and a link to their website. All of our partners are available 24/7 to provide you with the highest level of customer service.
Regardless of the insurance carrier, the claims process typically follows these six steps:
Complete a Comprehensive Claims Form
When you contact your insurance company, you will speak with an insurance claims specialist who will ask detailed questions about your loss. Your answers will enable them to fill out the claims form, which is a crucial step in getting your claim filed and processed quickly and effectively. Providing accurate information to the claims specialist is critical in order to ensure that there are no delays in the claims process and that you are able to restore your home, and your life, to pre-incident condition swiftly and with minimal hassle.
A Claims Adjuster Will Be Assigned
Once the claim form has been completed and filed, you will be assigned an adjuster by your insurance carrier. Your adjuster is an important partner in the claims process. They are there to help things move along smoothly and to assist you with any questions, concerns, or needs as they arise.
Your adjuster is also responsible for determining whether your home is a total or partial loss. If they determine that your home is a total loss or uninhabitable, then the Additional Living Expenses (ALE) component of your homeowners insurance policy will typically cover the expense of securing temporary housing, as well as many other expenses, while your home is rebuilt. It’s important to keep all receipts for any costs that are over and above your normal living expenses, such as hotels, restaurants, pet boarding, moving costs, additional transportation fees, etc., to ensure that you are properly reimbursed.
On the other hand, if your adjuster determines that your home is only a partial loss, and that it is livable, then it’s your responsibility to implement temporary measures to prevent further damage. For example, cover any holes in your roof or broken windows with tarp or plastic. Again, make sure to keep all receipts. Plus, do not throw away any damaged items until your adjuster has a chance to review them.
Your Adjuster Will Estimate Damages to Your Property
In order for your adjuster to correctly estimate damages to your home and belongings, they need to understand everything in your home that needs to be replaced. So, they are going to take their time inspecting your home and will be as thorough as possible, which could take a couple of hours or an entire day depending on the extent of the damage. To help this part of the process go more smoothly, it is extremely helpful to provide the adjuster with a pre-incident home inventory that will give a “before” picture of your home. We also encourage you to be present for any inspections of the damage so that you can ask questions and request copies of any inspection reports that they produce.
Your Adjuster Works with You and Your Contractor to Develop a Scope of Work
While it’s your responsibility to hire the contractors to repair your home, your adjuster will again serve as a critical advisor, especially in developing the scope of work document, which is a detailed plan for the rebuilding process. Your adjuster reviews your previous floor plan, square footage, and interior finishes, such as flooring, countertops, cabinetry, molding and plumbing, and will make sure that materials of a similar kind and quality to the originals are being used in the rebuilding process, subject to the limits and terms of your home insurance policy.
You Will Receive Payment from Your Insurance Company
After you agree to the cost of damages and the scope of work, and accept the settlement proposed by your adjuster, you will receive a payout from your insurer. Occasionally, homeowners will receive a single payment. But, because the standard homeowners insurance policy includes several separate coverages, including Dwelling Coverage, Coverage for Detached Structures such as a garage or shed, Coverage for Additional Living Expenses (or ALE), and Coverage for the Contents and Personal Possessions in your home, it’s more likely that you will receive multiple checks from your insurance company for these different losses. If you are not clear on what each payment is for, ask your adjuster. That way, you can designate it to the correct repairs, the appropriate replacement item, or to reimbursing your bank account for approved additional living expenses you paid for out of your own pocket.
Homeowners are often very surprised at this stage of the claims process to see that their mortgage company’s name is listed as a payee on their settlement checks. This is intended to ensure that claimants spend their insurance payout responsibly, e.g. on home repairs rather than on a trip to Hawaii. It’s also very common for your lender to require you to fill out several forms before funds can be released, and often these payouts are provided in stages as work is completed. Thus, it’s very important to contact your mortgage holder to inform them of what has happened and to find out what their process is for paying out insurance proceeds to contractors. Remember, while work is being done to your home, you need to keep paying your mortgage, property taxes and home insurance.
You and Your Insurance Agent Should Review Your Insurance Needs
It’s understandable that some homeowners may think that, after they experience a loss, their insurance coverage should be reduced. You, of course, don’t want to waste money on insuring things that don’t even exist anymore. However, we strongly advise having a thorough conversation with your insurance agent first. Things to consider with your insurance professional include how quickly you think you’ll replace furniture and high value items, if you are definitely rebuilding your home or if you are thinking of buying a replacement home elsewhere, and could someone get injured on your property while it’s uninhabited. After discussing these factors, and many others, you and your insurance professional can determine the appropriate level of coverage for your home and property during the rebuilding process, if that’s what you’ve chosen to do, as well as for any temporary residence. In addition, when your home is rebuilt, your insurance needs should be reevaluated again as the value of your “new” home is probably going to exceed that of your pre-loss one.
We have the utmost confidence in all our top-quality insurance partners, and know that they will professionally and compassionately guide you through the entire claims process. But, we also know that this process can often be overwhelming and time-consuming.
Our personal insurance team is notified of your loss when your claim is filed, so we will be here to provide you with any additional support you need and to help you get back in your home as quickly as possible. In addition, should a problem arise during the claims process, we have an in-house claims specialist, Lori Burkavage, who can act as a liaison between you and your adjuster.
We want you to know that Lori and the entire ICNE team are just a phone call or email away, and that we will go above and beyond to get your claim resolved effectively and efficiently.
If you are ready for a more personal relationship with a trusted insurance agent who is always striving to do more for their clients, call us today at (800) 243-8134 or stop into any one of our three convenient Massachusetts offices.