Recent, heavy storms here in the Pacific Northwest, with more wet and windy weather in the forecast, means that many homeowners will likely suffer property damage that may be covered under their homeowner’s policy. Here are some tips and a video to help you decide whether to make a claim, and some words of warning that may prevent you suffering an uninsured loss.
- Make sure your insurance company’s and insurance broker’s contact information are readily available. Many insurers have online claim submission forms. It is important to report a claim as soon as reasonably possible so that the insurer is on notice.
- Document the loss by taking photos and videos. This is an important step that can be done on your cellphone.
- If a remediation company or repair contractor wants you to sign a contract, consider having it reviewed by legal counsel. Homeowners often mistakenly assume that a contractor is working for the insurer. Also, because homeowners are often under duress after a casualty loss, they may unknowingly agree to payment terms, collection penalties, and other terms buried in a contract.
- Consider hiring your own expert to assess the scope of loss. As the video below shows, much of the damage may be hidden behind the walls, in the floor, and elsewhere. Although insurers should keep a claim open until all damage is located and repaired, sometimes they may try to shortchange you on your claim without adequately investigating the loss.
- Consider retaining legal counsel if your insurer is anything less than fully cooperative, timely in its responses, and thorough in adjusting your claim. Insurance companies have a duty to find coverage whenever possible, but they often act as if they are instead searching for a basis to deny your claim.
- Be aware that making a claim may land your house in the CLUE database. Insurers share a database of properties that have suffered casualty losses. So making a claim may affect your future premiums, even if you switch insurers. It also may affect your ability to sell your house because buyers will be seeking coverage from their insurers, and those insurers will also have access to the CLUE database.
If you have suffered a property loss, contact us to find out how we can help maximize your recovery and protect your rights.