Common Property Damage Claim Errors and How to Avoid Them
Property damage is one of the perpetual hazards of property ownership. It's also painfully common. Property damage accounts for just shy of 98 percent of all home insurance losses.
Despite how many claims stem from property damage, something else that is unfortunately common is property damage claim errors. It turns out that a lot of things can derail a property damage claim filing process.
If you want to avoid these kinds of errors, keep reading for the most common claim errors and the best ways to avoid them.
Failure to Document
One of the single most common reasons why a claim doesn't get approved is because the property owner doesn't document the damage. One or two pictures aren't enough.
When your property suffers damage, you should make a concerted effort to document the damage as comprehensively as possible. You should also document the damage as soon as possible.
The closer to the event that you can document the damage, the less likely it is that you'll get a rejected claim. When you get pictures right afterward, it demonstrates that you haven't exaggerated the claim. It's also a kind of visual insurance against claims that something else caused damage between the time of the damage and the arrival of the insurance adjuster.
Photographic documentation is usually the easiest option, but you can also take videos of the damage as well. Photos and videos typically carry timestamp information that verifies when you took them.
Failure to Get a Police Report
While it's not always necessary, there are some types of property damage that also count as crimes, such as theft and vandalism. With these types of property damage, you should call the police.
When you call, the police will file an incident report that included pertinent information, such as:
- Date and time
- Property damaged
- Property stolen
You can use this report as proof of the event, as well as proof of the damages. It's one of the key property damage claim documents that you'll need to get your claim approved.
Not Filing Promptly
Another common mistake that property owners make is that they don't touch base with their insurance company promptly after a property damage incident. When property owners put off contacting their insurance company, it looks at least a little suspicious to the insurance company. That makes them less inclined to simply approve your claim.
When you contact your insurance provider about the damage, it triggers the claim process. Not only are they now aware of the damage, but they can send an adjuster promptly.
In addition to dispatching an adjuster, the insurance company will ask you a series of questions about the damage. For example, they'll want a rundown on the type of damage, the cause of the damage, and the extent of the damage.
They may also ask you to fill out the paperwork they send you by email or through an online form.
Not Following Insurer Directions
Depending on the type and extent of the damage, your insurance company may instruct you to take certain actions. For example, they may encourage you to call someone to make certain kinds of repairs. In most cases, these instructions will help prevent additional damage.
For example, after a flooding incident, there is a high probability of mildew and mold growth. It can get out of hand within a day or two. So, your insurer may instruct you to contact a water damage remediation company immediately.
Getting the remediators on-site as fast as possible actually works for the insurance company, but it can keep their claim costs down. If you don't follow these kinds of recommendations, it can become grounds for denying your claim down the road.
Their reasoning will go something like, "If you followed our recommendation, the damage wouldn't be this severe."
Disposing of Damaged Property
In some cases, homeowners begin throwing away damaged property in an attempt to find and salvage what they can. While understandable, this can also become grounds for denying your claim.
If the claims adjuster can't see the damage with their own eyes, it becomes a case of taking your word for it. While photographic evidence will help mitigate that problem, you should never dispose of damaged property on your own initiative.
Always talk with your insurance company before you roll in a dumpster and haul things away. In cases like flooding, they may well encourage it. With other kinds of damage, they may want the adjuster to see the property in place before it gets removed.
Not Getting Legal Representation
After a major weather event, adjusters are often hard-pressed to process as many claims as possible, as quickly as possible. Take Hurricane Ida, for example. It was one of the most destructive hurricanes in US history.
Claims adjusters had countless claims to process in the wake of that disaster. That means that, in some cases, the adjusters hurried through the process and undervalued people's legitimate claims. For those who got underserved by their insurance companies, Hurricane Ida damage claims lawyers could help them get the compensation to which their policies entitled them.
While not every adjuster will rush the process, some adjusters will try to lowball their estimates. Saving the insurance company money is a good way for adjusters to secure their jobs.
If you think your adjuster tried to lowball you, talk with an attorney that specializes in insurance claims about your property damage case.
Avoiding Property Damage Claim Errors
After a property damage incident, all property owners should focus on avoiding property damage claim errors. Those errors can compound a bad situation into a catastrophic situation.
Make sure that you document the damage with photos. Get a police report, if necessary. Call your insurance company quickly and follow their recommendations.
Don't throw away damaged property without talking with your insurer first. If you get a lowball estimate from your adjuster, though, consider getting legal representation.
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