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Anatomy of an Insurance Claim: 7 Crucial Steps


If you’re like most homeowners, you don’t give your insurance much thought … until you need to use it. One day a devastating fire, water leak, or other disaster could leave your home with extensive damage. Do you know what comes next? Are you prepared to navigate the recovery process?

Instead of waiting until disaster strikes, take a few minutes now to understand the claim process.

If your home is damaged, there are seven basic steps to take during the claim process:

1. Assess the damage. Is the damage severe enough to merit filing a claim? Homeowners policies are affected by claim frequency so review your deductible and consider whether the damage can be repaired without involving your insurance company. If you’re not sure, get advice from your insurance agent.

2. Contact your insurance company as soon as possible if you’re filing a claim. It is a condition of your policy to promptly notify your agent or insurance company of a loss. They’ll assign a claims adjuster to help you through the process. Be present when the adjuster inspects your home if possible, and thoroughly describe the damages and answer any questions. If you don’t have a home inventory, you’ll wish you did now because you’ll need to provide the adjuster with a room-by-room list of damaged property and it might no longer be there.

3. Understand the relevant coverage types. Your homeowner’s policy is a package of separate coverages that apply to different types of losses. For example, your adjuster could evaluate damage to the structure and issue payment to address that portion of your loss. Damages to personal contents and possessions would be reimbursed separately. And if your home is uninhabitable, the Additional Living Expenses provision of your policy would cover alternative housing as well as meals and other living expenses in excess of your normal expenses while your home is repaired.

4. Contact your mortgage holder. The bank that issued your home loan has an interest in seeing your house repaired, so don’t forget to contact them after a major loss. You’ll need to keep paying your mortgage and property taxes during this time. Any payment for dwelling repairs will include your mortgage company so getting in touch with them will expedite getting payments to repair your home.

5. Make temporary repairs if your home is only a partial loss. Cover roofs or broken windows to prevent any further damage. Be sure to save receipts for supplies and materials you purchase so you can be reimbursed. It is also a condition of your policy to mitigate your damage.

6. Choose a contractor. If your home requires major repairs or rebuilding, you’ll need a good contractor. Choose wisely and be wary of frauds and door-to-door solicitors. Ask around, carefully check references, and get more than one estimate. Also check with the Better Business Bureau, your local Home Builders Association, and Chamber of Commerce. Make certain any contractor you’re considering is licensed and adequately insured. Also, check with your insurer to see if they have a list of approved contractors.

7. Identify the scope of work. You and your adjuster will work together with the contractor to outline a plan for the repairs, commonly referred to as the scope of repair, and arrange for payment for the work. Make sure you’re happy with the final result before you pay the contractor in full.

Want to help keep the claim process rolling along? Mind the details such as properly filing your claim, completing all necessary forms, meeting all deadlines, and carefully documenting everything. You don’t want one small oversight to jeopardize your entire claim.

Have questions about your homeowner’s insurance or the claim settlement process? Contact the homeowners insurance specialists at FICOH today.