Communicating with your insurance company is a critical part of the claims process. Often, by the time we are brought in to assist with a claim that has broken down, the claim history consists primarily of letters and emails between the policyholder and the insurance company. It is in your best interest to communicate professionally and consistently with your insurance company and document everything in writing. Here are some tips to follow to ensure you put your claim in the best position possible to recover the full amount you are owed. S.P.E.A.K. U.P.
S. Start a Claim Diary
Note the name of every person you speak with on the insurance side and what they tell you, particularly items they say they need from you, damages they say the insurance company is going to cover or not cover, and information they say they are waiting on to complete their investigation and finish adjusting the claim. It is very common for claims to be assigned from one adjuster to another to another. It is in your best interest to keep a timeline of events and track of the persons involved in your claim and what each person tells you about the status of your claim and the insurance company's investigation.
P. Phone Call Confirmations
Much of the claim process will occur over phone calls between you and your adjuster. If representations are made to you over the phone about what damages the insurance company is going to cover (or not cover) or actions they are going to take, send a short email to the insurance company after the call ends confirming what you were told. It is in your best interest to create a record of communications made over the phone.
E. Expect a Business Negotiation
Unfortunately, this is essentially what an insurance claim is—a negotiation—over the damages that will be covered and the cost to repair those damages. Your adjuster(s) may be friendly, but understand they represent the insurance company's interest, not yours. Just as you would in a business negotiation, be sure to be clear about your concerns, your situation and needs, and what you think you are entitled to.
A. Assertive But Polite
If you feel your insurance company has failed to fulfill a promise or has taken a position that is unfair or inaccurate, state this clearly in a communication in a professional manner. Use proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Do not use communications to simply vent anger or frustration. Remember everything you say to the insurance company will be documented in their file. Do not use language that would make you seem uncooperative or unreasonable.
K. Know Your Role
It is the insurance company's job to adjust the claim, not yours. You are obligated to timely notify your insurance company of the loss and fulfill their reasonable requests for documents, damaged items, and/or access to your property for inspections. While obtaining estimates prepared for you by independent adjusters or contractors is in your best interest, it is not required. If you do not feel your insurance company has fulfilled its obligation to pay the full amount you are owed on your claim, know it is their job to timely adjust and pay the claim. Continue to politely and professionally keep pressure on the insurance company to do this.
U. Understand the Process
The typical claim process begins with an inspection of your home, an initial estimate prepared for the insurance company, and a letter from the insurance company with an initial payment (or a denial). It will then be in your best interest to obtain your own estimate for the repairs, if you are able, and send that (and/or any other evidence you can compile: invoices, estimates, etc.) to the insurance company. You may even want to ask the insurance company to re-inspect if there is a significant cost difference between the insurance company's estimate and yours (this is very common). The insurance company will likely then issue requests for documents (photos, invoices, receipts, lease agreements, bills, etc.). The insurance company may re-inspect your property or may prepare an updated estimate and send a second payment or perhaps an initial or second denial. This is all part of the lengthy negotiation that is an insurance claim. If you understand this process, you can draft more appropriate and effective communications that are geared toward the end goal of negotiating a settlement of your claim that you are satisfied with.
P. Professional Help
If this communications process has not resulted in a negotiation you are satisfied with and you feel your insurance company has taken an inaccurate or wrongful position, it may be time to seek professional help from an experienced insurance attorney, like our attorneys at TWWH. In particular, if your insurance company has asked you to give a recorded statement or sit for an examination under oath, these are critical moments during the claim process that you should not undertake alone, without someone involved who is looking out for your interest.
At TWWH, our attorneys have been helping policyholders resolve claims with their insurance companies for decades. Whether it is a fire, water, or wind loss, our attorneys know the process and they know how to interact with the insurance company to ensure you are put in the best position possible to negotiate a good outcome for you and your family. We never charge any fee or cost, or require any obligation, to simply sit down with you and answer any questions you may have about your insurance claim. Never hesitate to contact us. We've been through the process hundreds of times, we know the insurance company's playbook, and we're here to help you.