Disaster seems to strike at the most inopportune times.  Watching our home go up in flames, or sorting through the mess after our house has been burglarized can leave us feeling bereft, frustrated, and like our lives are spinning out of control.   In those moments, it is common to be unsure of what to do first.  Below are some steps to help you get your insurance claim settled quickly, so you can start the rebuilding and restoration process and move on with your life.

Step 1: Call the police and/or fire department if your house is on fire or a crime has been committed.  Make sure to get the police report and the names of the officers who helped you.  The insurance company might need this information as they work to process your claim.

Step 2: Call your insurance agent as soon as possible.  Let them know what has happened.  They will be able to walk you through the next few steps and will be a good sounding board as you have questions along the way.  Remember, if you have an independent insurance agent, they are your advocate.  They know the companies, and they know your rights as an insured.  They can help ensure that you are treated fairly and with respect.

Step 3: Take pictures or a video of the damage.  This step can go a long way in helping the insurance company to see the full extent of the damage.

Step 4: Take necessary steps to make sure no further damage occurs.  For example, If you have a branch that has gone through the window of your home, seal up the hole as soon as you have taken your initial pictures to make sure that no further damage occurs to the interior of your house.  Don’t throw anything away until the adjuster has been out to see the damage.  The more physical evidence he or she can see from the claim, the easier his or her job will be, and the more accurate your settlement will be.

Step 5: Make sure to keep your receipts!  Any purchase that you have to make in regards to the loss should be recorded and the receipt kept.  Most insurance companies work on a reimbursement system and require proof of purchase.  Establishing a system to keep track of receipts, expenses, and paperwork in the beginning will save you headaches later.  An expandable portable file folder is a great way to keep track of paperwork and receipts.

Step 6: If your home is not livable, talk to your agent to see what your policy covers for temporary living arrangements.  Again, make sure to keep all your receipts!

Step 7:  Fill out any claim forms the company sends you as soon as possible.  Especially if you have experienced a large loss, paperwork might be the last thing on your mind, but filling out claim forms promptly will expediate the process.   Make sure you fill them out accurately, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Your agent is there to help you, so reach out to him or her if there is something you are not sure about.

Step 8:  Prepare to meet the insurance adjuster.  After you have filed the claim, the insurance company will send out an adjuster to look at the damage.  Have the photos and videos of the initial damage available.  Make sure to point out any structural damage and damage that might not be immediately noticeable.  Be sure to have any broken items available for him or her to look at.  Because you may have already made some temporary repairs to prevent further damage, the better you can show the original damage and state of loss, the more accurate your claim settlement will be.

Step 9:  Make a list of items that have been lost or damaged.  If you have experienced a large fire loss or burglary, this can be one of the most difficult parts of the claim process.  Trying to remember everything you had or what exactly was stolen can be difficult.  Completing a house inventory once per year can make this step significantly easier.  Doing this one step ahead of time can really go a long way to making the process easier.

When a major disaster hits your home, these steps can help make the claim process run more smoothly.  Remember to reach out to your agent, he is there to help you each step of the way.  For more articles like these visit the www.wirtjesagency.com blog.