Insurance Information Institute

Tornadoes, fires, hurricanes—these and other disasters can wreak havoc on people’s lives, properties and possessions. Learning the claims filing process before an insured loss strikes can make your economic recovery faster and easier, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

“The claims filing process can be overwhelming, particularly if you have sustained a large loss,” said Michael Barry, vice president, Media Relations, I.I.I. “To begin the rebuilding process as quickly as possible, you need to get your claim going and that means contacting your insurance agent or company representative right away,” he added. “Your insurance company may send you a proof of loss form to complete, or an adjuster may first visit your home. In either case, the more information you have about your damaged property and possessions, the faster your claim generally can be settled.”

When a disaster does happen, the I.I.I. offers the following claims filing tips:
  1. Be prepared to give your agent or insurance company representative a description of the damage. Your agent will report the loss to your insurance company or to a qualified adjuster who will contact you about making an appointment to inspect the damage. If you have to evacuate, make sure to give your agent or insurer a telephone number where you can be reached.
  2. Take photos of the damaged areas. These will assist the adjuster in the investigation and help with the claims process.
  3. If you do not already have one, prepare a detailed inventory of all damaged or destroyed personal property. Be sure to make two copies, one for yourself and one for the adjuster. Your list should be as complete as possible, including a description of the items, dates of purchase or approximate age, cost at the time of purchase and estimated replacement cost, if you are able to provide that figure.
  4. Collect canceled checks, invoices, receipts or other papers that will assist the adjuster in obtaining the value of the damaged or destroyed property.
  5. Make whatever temporary repairs are needed to protect your home from further damage and from causing injury to you and others. Do not make extensive permanent repairs until after the claims adjuster has been to your home and assessed the damage.
  6. Save receipts for any supplies or materials purchased, and make copies of bills for your records. Your insurance company will reimburse any reasonable expenses incurred in making temporary repairs. Secure a detailed estimate for permanent repairs to your home from a reliable contractor and give it to the adjuster. The estimate should contain the proposed repairs, costs and replacement prices.
  7. The contractor’s bid should include details of the materials to be used and prices on a line-by-line basis.
  8. Be sure to keep copies of the lists and other documents you submit to your insurance company. Also keep copies of whatever paperwork your insurance company gives you.

If you believe the settlement offer made by your insurance company is not a fair one, contact the insurer. Be prepared to provide information to back up your claim.

Your settlement probably will not be the same as your neighbor’s. Your insurance policy may be different and the amount of damage to your home may be different even though you live on the same street. Your insurance policy will pay for the property you had before the disaster. But your homeowners insurance policy will not pay for expensive improvements like a tile roof, for instance, if you had a standard fiberglass roof before the insured loss occurred.

Serious losses are given priority. All losses are adjusted and claims paid as quickly as possible but hardship cases are usually handled first. If your home is destroyed or seriously damaged, your agent will do everything possible to assure you are given priority.


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