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What you need to know about
- how to file a claim
- how the claim process works
- what's covered and what's not
Contact your agent or company immediately. Find out:
- Whether the damage is covered under the terms of your policy
- how long you have to file a claim
- whether your claim exceeds your deductible (the amount of loss you agree to pay before insurance kicks in)
- how long it will take to process the claim
- whether you’ll need estimates for repairs
Make temporary repairs: Take reasonable steps to protect your property from further damage. Save receipts for what you spend and submit them to your insurance company for reimbursement. Remember that payments for temporary repairs are part of the total settlement. So if you pay a contractor a large sum for a temporary repair job, you may not have enough money for permanent repairs. Beware of contractors who ask for a large amount of money up front and contractors whose bids are very low -- they might cut corners and do shabby work. Don't make extensive permanent repairs until the claims adjuster has assessed the damage.
If you need to relocate, keep your receipts: If you need to find other accommodations while your home is being repaired, keep records of your expenses. Homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for the cost of additional living expenses if your home is damaged by an insured disaster.
Prepare for the adjuster's visits: Your insurance company may send you a proof of loss form to complete or an adjuster may visit your home first. (An adjuster is a person professionally trained to assess the damage.) In either case, the more information you have about your damaged possessions -- a description of the item, approximate date of purchase and what it would cost to replace or repair -- the faster your claim generally can be settled.
- To substantiate your loss, prepare an inventory of damaged or destroyed items and give a copy to the adjuster along with copies of any receipts. Don’t throw out damaged items until the adjuster has visited. You should also consider photographing or videotaping the damage. If your property was destroyed or you no longer have any records, work from memory.
- Identify structural damage to your home and other structures such as a garage, tool shed or in-ground swimming pool. Make a list of everything you want to show the adjuster, for example, cracks in the walls and missing roof tiles. You should also get the electrical system checked. Most insurance companies pay for these inspections.
- Get written bids from licensed contractors. The bids should include details of the materials to be used and prices on a line-by-line basis. This makes adjusting the claim faster and simpler.
- Keep copies of the lists and other documents you submit to your insurance company. Also keep copies of whatever paperwork your insurance company gives you and record the names and phone numbers of everyone you speak to.
Flood damage is excluded under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. Flood coverage, however, is available as a separate policy from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few private insurers. The NFIP provides coverage up to $250,000 for the structure of the home and $100,000 for personal possessions. Flood insurance claims should be filed with your homeowners insurance company.