Unlike a normal insurance claim, a disaster claim is something that has a huge impact on an individual’s life. It is scary to think of rebuilding your life after you have lost everything, but each and every person out there needs to remember that it is important to stay strong and be aware of your surroundings. Knowing how to handle a situation like this and how to get back on your feet after a major disaster will help you in the long run.
The First Steps:
Dealing with a largescale disaster like this can be quite intimidating. As an insured person, there are countless questions that need to be addressed:
Who will help fix the damage? How much will it cost to rebuild the house? Will my insurance company cover the entire cost? Whom should I speak to?
Amongst all such dilemmas, the first thing that you need to do as a policyholder is to make sure that you and your family members are safe. If the danger still persists, you need to be in a safe environment. Leaving your belongings and everything you possess may seem heartbreaking but always remember that your life is more important. In case you are stuck inside your home, call emergency services and wait for help to arrive.
In cases of a fire, an earthquake, or floods, it is important to minimize the damage by shutting down electricity and water. When the situation is stable, call your insurance company and let them know about the situation. Try not to delay this process as the earlier you inform your insurance company, the better it would be for you later on during the claim process. The three main reasons for informing your insurance company are:
- Find out the kind of compensation you will receive.
- Every insured individual’s policy contains a clause that requires them to immediately inform their insurance company of any damage to their property. Failing to do so would void your policy, thus disabling you from receiving any compensation at all.
- Having your insurance company assist you in dealing with the disaster will make it an easier process to go through.
The next part of handling a disaster is to assess the overall situation of your home. DO NOT re-enter your home if it doesn’t seem safe. Your life is still the priority and it is necessary you hold it above everything else. Once you make sure that going inside and observing your home is safe, start assessing and clicking pictures of the damage that you can find. While this is the insurer’s job, it will help you communicate better if you too have an idea about the overall destruction that has happened.
Another important thing to keep in mind is to not start cleaning up anything. Whatever damages that have occurred are to be treated as evidence by the insurance company. Anything you clean or remove will only harm your claim, therefore make sure you leave the property as it is and just document all the damage that you find as proof of loss. Going forward, this documentation will become really important for your claim.
Speak to Your Insurance Company:
Your next step involves going into details about the kind of coverage your insurance policy includes. Keep in mind that all insurance policies vary widely and it is extremely important to go through your policy before speaking to the representative from the company. Be aware of the loopholes and exclusions that are present in the policy. Most basic homeowner’s insurance policies cover these damages:
- Dwelling Protection
- Coverage against fire, water damage, hailstorms, lightning, and windstorm.
- Other structures (garage, tool shed, etc) and personal property
- Additional living expenses (also referred to, as loss of use coverage)
Homeowner’s policies usually, do not cover damages caused by earthquakes and floods as for these, separate insurance needs to be purchased. Moreover, there is a coverage limit and as well as the deductible amount that you need to pay beforehand before the insurance benefits kick in. Make sure to find out what your coverage limit is so that you can keep an account of the compensation you will receive.
In case you are eligible for loss of use coverage, because of the unlivable condition of your home, make sure you keep all your receipts which include, hotel bills, restaurant meals, etc. Also, keep in mind the coverage limit for these expenses as exceeding the limit would mean paying the amount out of your own pocket.
Meeting The Adjuster:
After speaking to your insurance company and discussing the damages, they will send a claims adjuster for a visit. An adjuster’s job is to inspect your house for all the possible damages that you have suffered and determine the compensation that you must receive. This is an integral part of the entire claims process for both the insurer and the insured. Here, your resources will come in handy that includes all the documented evidence of losses that you have captured.
The insurance adjuster will interview you and based on his/her interview and inspection will determine a settlement amount. They will also correlate their findings with your policy and coverage type. Make sure to pay attention to the process and be aware of your policy’s inclusions.
Negotiation and Settlement:
This is the part where you and your insurance company discuss the amount of compensation you will receive. The company will assess all the evidence that the adjuster submitted in the form of a report and determine the settlement amount. Here, you by sharing your own evidence and insights and come to an agreement with your insurer on the total compensation.
Receiving Claim Amount:
The final part of the process comes after negotiation. With the final agreement in place, the insurance company will issue a cheque with the total compensation amount you are entitled to. After you receive the money, you can proceed with repairing and rebuilding your home, the way you wish to.
Losing your home is a traumatic experience and we wish you never have to go through it in your life. However, tough situations do arise and we hope this guide helps you in being level-headed and getting through times like these.