Fire, burglary, tornados, water damage and other disasters: just a few things that could cause you to have a Homeowner’s insurance claim. Events like these can be frightening for you and your family. If disaster strikes your home, would you know what to do?
The long and winding road
No one expects to have a home disaster, and the aftermath can be disorienting. Here are a few helpful tips to help keep your family safe, minimize damage to your property, and get your insurance claim in process as quickly as possible.
- Leave the premises immediately if the situation has made your home structurally unsound, dangerous or uninhabitable.
- Report any crime to the police. If your home was broken into or vandalized in anyway, you will need an official police report to begin the claims process.
- Be careful when returning home. If the incident occurred while you were away from home, or if you had to leave, exercise caution when going back. If your property was damaged by fire or a natural disaster, contact your local officials to determine how you should proceed.
- Shut off electricity if necessary, and keep it off if there is standing water in your home. Report downed power lines to the utility company.
- Call your insurance agent or insurance company immediately. Most insurance companies have 24-hr claim numbers that are accessible late at night and on week-ends. Be prepared to report how, when and where the damage occurred. Make a note of the claim handler’s name, telephone number, claim number and identification number when you call.
- Protect your home from further damage, but only if you can do so without putting yourself in danger.This may include boarding up windows, tarping your roof and/or salvaging possessions that did not sustain much damage. Your claim handler can advise you on how to do so safely. Consider taking photos or video footage before moving things or making repairs. Keep in mind that the adjuster will want to see the full extent of the damage, so do not do any extensive work unless the adjuster gives you the OK to do so in writing.
- Prepare a list of damaged or lost items. Be as thorough as possible, and make multiple copies. This step will be easier if you keep a current home inventory.
- Don’t move damaged items unless necessary for safety. The claim handler will want to see all the damage first-hand during the initial inspection. Again, documenting the damage with pictures or video can be valuable. Do not destroy or dispose of anything until the adjuster has had an opportunity to see it, unless the aduster gives you written permission to do so.
- Be prepared for your adjuster’s visit. Your insurance company will send an adjuster out to inspect your home. The adjuster will interview you, make notes and take photos and/or video of the damages. This is where those inventory lists will come in handy. Make sure to give the adjuster as much information as possible.
- Complete all paperwork and return it promptly. The insurance company relies on this information to begin processing your claim. If you need assistance, contact your agent or adjuster.
- Provide receipts or proof of purchase for damaged items if possible.
- Save receipts for lodging and meals. If you need to temporarily relocate, your policy may cover your hotel costs and other living expenses, within reason. Check with your agent and/or adjuster for any limitations to this coverage so you don’t overspend your benefits.
Here, there and everywhere
What you do after a home disaster matters, but things you do BEFORE you experience a loss can make an even bigger difference. “The better you understand the process, and the more prepared you are before a loss, helps to make the claim process go as smoothly as possible,” says Katherine Williams, Vice President and General Manager of General Southwest Insurance agency.
“Everyone remembers the TV, tables and couches,” Williams adds, “But they don’t think about all the clothes, shoes, china, crystal, pictures, cleaning supplies, pots & pans, serving dishes, kitchen gadgets & utensils, make up, jewelry, etc., etc., etc. Those can really add up quickly.”
Williams advises everyone to do a few simple things now, to help smooth the claims process:
- Walk around and take a video of your home. Include the inside of closets, cabinets, the garage, and other storage areas. Make back-up copies and keep one in a safety deposit box, or give to a friend or relative for safe-keeping. A video not only helps you remember what you had, but also provides proof to the insurance company.
- Write down an inventory room by room. This is useful either in conjunction with, or in place of, video footage. Remember to update your inventory once a year or when making changes to your home.
- Keep receipts, especially for expensive items. Have a designated spot for them, or scan and store on a flash drive or other computer back-up. If you have to leave your home quickly, you may be able to grab them, but it’s best to also keep copies along with your home inventory, in a safety deposit box or with another safe location outside your home.
Your home is a safe-haven for you and your family. Damages to your property and belongings create an enormous amount of stress and uncertainty. You’ll have a lot of decisions to make, and often not much time to make them. It’s important not to panic. The steps you take before and immediately following a disaster can have a big impact on the outcome of your claim.
In the event of home damage or disaster, contact your General Southwest advisor. We can help guide you through the claims process so you can get back in your home as soon as possible.
To find claims contact numbers for many of the carriers GSW represents, click HERE.