What to Expect When Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim

Disaster has struck. Maybe there was a fire in the kitchen or the hose connecting water to the ice maker came loose in the night, flooding the kitchen, or a tree fell on your house. Whatever happened, you want it fixed fast so you and your family can get back to normal. Filing a homeowners insurance claim isn’t difficult but it helps if you know what to expect.

Phase One: Document and Report

The first thing you should do is document the damage. Photograph or record the damage before you clean up anything since you might need these photos to defend your claim.

Next, contact your insurance agent as soon as possible to initiate the claim or file an online claim. Most companies make the reporting process easy and straightforward. However, do not wait to initiate this process. The longer you wait the longer it takes to resolve your claim and, in a worse case situation, the delay can result in a denial of your claim.

Phase Two: Getting an Inspection

The first step the insurance company will take is to assign you a claim number and a claims professional who will manage this process from this point forward.

Next, the claims professional will contact you to discuss your loss and coverage. This is important because you probably have a deductible and may have limits on certain types of coverage and now is when you learn how much you might pay out of pocket to repair your home. Also, pay attention to his or her recommendations on how to prevent more damage.

Finally, they will send an insurance adjuster to your home to determine the cause of the issue and estimate the total cost of the damage. During this assessment, the adjuster will decide if the insurance company is responsible for the repairs or if the damage occurred due to poor maintenance or other issues so that the homeowner bears the cost of repairs. In most instances, the insurance company determines that the claim is valid and they will pay for the repairs.

It is important that you attend any inspection of the damage to assure that the process is fair and complete. The inspector might not realize that the fire damage to the kitchen wall also caused smoke damage to the bedroom above it unless you are there to make them aware of the extent of the problem.

Phase Three: Payments and Repairs

First, once the claim is accepted by the insurance company you need to select someone to do the repairs on your home. The company often suggests vendors in your area that they have worked with in the past but you may hire someone else.

Next, the selected vendor will be required to submit an estimate of the work so that your claims representative can determine if it is within the scope of the coverage in terms of repairs and price. Once the estimate is approved the repairs can begin.

Third, the payment process begins. Sometimes the company offers you a single payment when there is only a small amount of damage. When the damage is more extensive, you will probably receive multiple checks rather than one. These may include:

  • Checks paid for each phase of the repair process;
  • Payments for living expenses if you cannot remain in the home while it is being repaired;
  • Payments for dining out if the damage did not allow you to prepare meals but you could remain in the home; and/or
  • The final payment.

Note that if you have a mortgage, the checks will be written to both you and your lender. This is to assure that the repairs are actually made rather than a homeowner using the funds for some other purpose.

Throughout the repair process, the claims professional may come by to view the progress and evaluate the quality of the work. As with the initial inspection, try to be present for these walkthroughs to assure that nothing is missed and to raise any concerns you may have.

Fourth Phase: Resolution

Once the repairs have been made, the insurance company will declare it resolved and close the file. However, if you discover that additional damage had occurred that was not obvious when the claim was initially resolved, you can request that it be reopened.

Keys to a Successful Claim

The goal of this process is to have the damage repaired as quickly as possible with as much of the expense covered by the insurance company as possible. The best way to do this is to be as responsive as possible to the needs of the claim professional or others working on your home.

For a successful claim:

  • File it promptly;
  • Keep the claim number the contact information of your assigned claims professional handy;
  • Meet all deadlines. For example, if the claims professional requests a list of all personal items lost or damaged in the incident by a specific date, do your best to do so;
  • Submit all required forms. They must be complete or legible to keep the process moving forward.
  • Respond promptly to questions;
  • Attend inspections of the damage and those that occur throughout the repair process.

Addressing a homeowners claim is stressful but it can go fairly smoothly when you have a good insurance company and the right coverage. If you have concerns about your current homeowners’ policy, let us help. At Alliance, we represent the best, most reliable insurance companies in the state and can help you select the best coverage that meets your needs and budget.


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