The recent, unprecedented fires in and around Santa Rosa in Northern California have brought widespread devastation to the area, leaving many without their homes and relying on their insurance policies to help them through this difficult time. Even in a time of crisis, the insurance claims process can be notoriously tricky. Below are some tips to help get the full value on your property claim.
Make a List of All of Your Lost Property
Spend the time to create an itemized list of everything on your property (and its value) that you believe should be covered by your policy. You might not remember everything that you had and lost, but do your best to start with an idea of everything of value. Review old pictures that you have to help remember every item of property. Contact your friends and family to see if they have any photographs of your property that may be helpful. Call your credit card companies to review copies of old statements to help identify property. You cannot get compensated for lost items from your insurance company if you do not make a claim for each item.
Know Your Policy Inside and Out, and What Should Be Covered
Before you submit your claim, go through your policy and make sure you know everything that should be covered. Make sure you are familiar with the differences between “Replacement Coverage,” “Guaranteed Replacement Coverage,” and “Actual Cash Value Coverage,” as this can have a major bearing on what you are able to recover from your claim. If you have any questions, please call us for free advice
Thoroughly Document Your Damage Before You Submit a Claim
Take as many photos and notes as possible, documenting all damage to the insured portions of your property. The more evidence you have to back up your claims, the better. Once you have thoroughly documented all damage, promptly contact your insurer and have them explain what documentation they need, including a Proof of Loss form, and how it must be submitted.
Document All of Your Interactions and Correspondence with Your Insurer
From the very beginning, you should document every step of your claim submission process with the insurer. Keep detailed records of the contents of your claim, when it was sent in, and any correspondence you have with insurance company representatives, including phone calls. As much as possible, take down the name of the person you spoke to, when, and the contents of your conversation. Save and/or print out any correspondence by mail or email. Documentation is absolutely critical in streamlining the claims process and avoiding any unnecessary delays.
Don’t Let Your Insurer Pressure You
Especially in cases where large fires have leveled entire communities, insurers may apply extra pressure to reach a quick settlement. This is where thoroughly knowing your policy will come in handy. Do not feel forced to use contractors or adjustors that the insurance company recommends; you should get at least one estimate from a qualified and independent professional—the more the better. If you receive an offer from your insurer that you don’t believe meets the full value of your claim, do not feel intimidated into accepting. Carefully read any checks issued by your insurer before depositing them to make sure that you are not unwittingly relinquishing any of your rights. If anything in the claims process seems amiss, you have the option of filing a complaint with the California Department of Insurance.
Don’t Give Up
Following these tips should assure you the best opportunity to recover the full value of the property and items you lost in the fires. Should you follow these steps, and if your insurance company denies your claims or refuses to pay the full value, then please contact our office for a free consultation so that we can try to help you in any way that we can and provide you with the options available for moving forward.