ANATOMY OF A PROPERTY CLAIM
If your property has been damaged due to something sudden and accidental, a weather incident, break in or theft the first thing to do is report your property claim. This may require a few steps depending if a police report must be filed or if it is just a claim on insurance. Property damage can be a stressful situation and your broker and insurer are committed to handling the claim as efficiently and stress free as possible.
Do you believe you have a claim on your insurance? Let’s start with the first steps:
1. Reporting your claim
Contact the police (for theft or vandalism) or fire department as needed. Keep a copy of the police/fire report for your records. Contact your broker (Reliance Insurance Agent), or your insurer directly. Claims reporting is always 24/7.
The insurer’s claims people will open a file and assign an adjuster to your claim. You should get contact within hours, and sooner if it is fire, water damage or sewer back-up. The assigned adjuster will call and get preliminary details and help you to find and engage a restoration contractor if such services are needed immediately.
3. The claims investigation
This starts immediately upon your sharing some details with your assigned claims representative (adjuster). The adjuster will arrange for an investigative interview or possibly obtain a written or recorded statement from you to determine the cause and circumstances of your claim.
This is done to ensure that you are the party insured and the appropriate coverages are in place. Once completed, you will then know if the claims are covered, together the adjuster and you will review the various limits of insurance that will come into play. If the adjuster tells you the claim “may not” be covered, then you need to press the adjuster for reasons and request something in writing right away.
4. The covered loss process
Claims take on a life of their own according to the value of the loss, the immediate needs for remediation, the need to move out of your property and then of course the final repairs.
Each of these steps has a time frame and you need to work with your adjuster to establish those time frames and what your needs are for living until repairs or remediation is complete.
Where water or sewage is the cause of the damage it usually takes days or sometimes weeks to get the place dried out and sanitized. After this is done to your satisfaction, then the adjuster will arrange with certain restoration companies to prepare a quote/ estimate on final repairs. This can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks depending on the severity of damages.
During all of this process, there may be contents that need to be restored, replaced or stored while the work is carried out. Work with your adjuster to list these items on special form called a “schedule of loss”. You may be asked for invoices, or some other type of proof of ownership. This will help validate the established values of damaged or loss.
Once the values are established, the adjuster will help you with replacements, or at least advise you on the allowable limits. If you decide not to replace your damaged items, the adjuster will offer a cash settlement that is based on the depreciated value.
5. Conclusion of a claim
Once repairs have been completed, replacements made, all restoration and storage is finalized, there is always going to be some outstanding items, which may include hotel bills, meals, or other living incidentals. You need to make sure the adjuster gets these expense items as soon as they are available. It is always best to maintain constant communications with your adjuster and restorationists through the whole process……start to finish. Generally, the deductible is arranged at the conclusion of your claim.
In larger losses, you may be asked to sign a Proof of Loss, which is the prescribed document to finalize a claim under the Insurance Act of British Columbia and all other provinces.
Roles and responsibility of the insured – person making a property claim
A little-known item regarding the claims process, is the insured (you) must prove their loss. Damage does not mean there is coverage for your loss. It is the cause of the loss that triggers coverage.
Evan Miles, Vice President of Claims at Reliance Insurance, advises “Do your best to explain the cause of the damage, and then work with the adjuster to provide what is requested, or at least provide explanations and support for your position on certain values. Remember that the adjuster has never been in your home before and starts with a white slate. You need to help the adjuster, as only you can provide the supportive information for your claim.”
Times are tough with atmospheric rivers and flooding, wildfires and many other events; adjusters and restoration companies are runoff their respective feet and things take longer. That’s the way it is so important to be prepared, and always ask the adjuster for time frames for all of the various parts of your claim.
Tips for a smooth propert claim process
Provide the adjustor facts about the incident in as much detail as possible, and provide a list of the items that were stolen or damaged, including (if applicable):
- Detailed description of the item
- Detailed description of the item
- Make and model number
- When and where the item was purchased
- Approximate purchase cost
- Proof of ownership, if possible (e.g., receipt, photo, warranty registration)
Although, we never want to be in the a position of a property damage or loss claim, now is the time to start to inventory and get your valuable items documented. An excellent way to do this is via your phone to keep a digital record using video, or pictures of your home, property, and assets. You can also contact Reliance Insurance and ask for an inventory sheet to be emailed out to you.
As your brokers, we are here to help you when you need us, but remember the insurance company and their adjusters are in complete charge of your claim. Evan Miles has an unusual but very valuable role at Reliance Group, where he advocates for our clients in the event of a complex liability or property claim, and when any client is not receiving a claim service level that is acceptable. The added value of the role he plays have proven to be very effective for any client where his expertise and experience is needed.
Resources for property claims
Reliance Insurance: Be prepared and avoid costly home insurance claims this winter.
Reliance Insurance: Smart tips on basement flooding prevention