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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

The ABCs of Submitting a Homeowners Insurance Claim

 By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay

As we enter the time of year when thunderstorms are an almost daily occurrence in North Florida, I thought I'd take the time to walk you through the basics of submitting a homeowners insurance claim.  Whether a claim is the result of the weather is beside the point.  While lightning strikes and wind damage are common during the summer months, the same process holds true if your home is damaged by a fire or a burst pipe.  What's vitally important when your home is damaged is that you understand the ins and outs of the claim process.  Get it right and you'll be able to make your property as good as new.  Get it wrong and you could wind up  getting less than you deserve from your insurer or having your claim denied.

Always be prompt when it comes to filing a claim.  If you delay submitting your claim and subsequent damage occurs to your home, either or both claims could be denied.  That's because insurance companies won't pay for preexisting damage.  Additionally, some policies contain limits on how long you can wait before filing a claim.  Exceed the limit and you risk having an otherwise valid claim denied due to tardiness.

Be careful you don't destroy the evidence you need to prove your claim.  Obviously, if a tree limb falls onto the roof which lets rain inside your dwelling you need to do whatever it takes to stop the water from coming in.  Just make sure you take the time to document the damage before you remove the limb and in so doing erase all evidence of what caused the damage in the first place.

Cameras are your best friend when it comes to claims.  While a picture may be worth a thousand words, photos or videos can be worth thousands of dollars when it comes to proving a claim's worth.  The more detailed the documentation, the better the odds of your getting every dollar's worth when the adjuster arrives to assess your claim.  

Don't forget to include evidence of collateral damage.  While a tree limb sticking out of the roof is an obvious sign of storm damage, make sure you also document any collateral damage done by any rain that falls through the hole.  Sometimes this means taking photos or video of water damaged walls, carpets,  appliances, and more.  

Establish the value of any property that was damaged or destroyed before the insurance adjuster arrives.  This will not only help you get your claim processed faster, it will also give you a better chance of getting top dollar for the items that were involved in the incident.  

File a police report when necessary.  While storm damage doesn't require police intervention, if a thief climbs through the hole made when a tree fell on your house only to abscond with your possessions, you'll need to show the adjuster a copy of the police report.  

Get familiar with your policy before you call in a claim. This way you'll know in advance about the limits and exclusions contained in your homeowner's policy.  

How do you know how much it will cost to repair your home without filing a claim? If you don't know how much it will cost to repair damage done to your property, you may wish to speak to your insurance agent or a local contractor to get an estimate.  Just make sure you don't exceed any time restraints contained in your policy before calling in your claim.  

Is filing a claim worth it?  Depending on the damage done and the size of your deductible, you may need to think twice before filing a claim.  Sometimes it's better to pay out of pocket for minor damage rather than filing a claim that could subsequently cause your rates to increase when it comes time to renew your policy.

Jot down pertinent questions before you call in your claim.  Then write down the responses given. This way you'll not only have an idea of the process and the timetable involved, but you'll also have a leg up on what is and isn't covered in your policy.  More importantly, you'll also be able to document what was said and who you said it when the adjuster shows up.

Keep detailed records of everything that transpires before, during and after you file a claim.  The more details you include, the better the results in the end.  If you're forced out of your home due to fire, water, or storm damage, make sure you keep records of lodging, meals, and other expenses that may be covered by your policy. Many homeowners policies include what's known as loss-of-use coverage.

Let your agent be your guide if you have any doubts or questions about the claims process.  He or she knows the ropes better than you do.  A ten minute phone call is much less stressful that sweating out any details you are unsure about.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida Insurance in Orange Park, Florida. To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at

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