Property Claims are on the rise.
Learn what to do when they happen.
This past weekend I had both a friend and a client encountering their first property claims. Water pouring into their basements along with the terrible feeling of not knowing what to do about it.
With more young people buying homes in Nova Scotia....and our weather events getting more extreme, I suspect most policyholders could use some info on what to do with a property claim.
Every insurance claim is unique in its own way, but I can still pull out some BEST PRACTICES to give the people some easy takeaways and maybe some insights to claims they hadn't considered.
Some Advice from a former Claims Adjuster.
1. IT'S YOUR PROPERTY SO LIMIT THE DAMAGES.
If water was pouring into your home, and you DIDN'T have insurance what would you do first?
Probably try to stop the problem right? Yes. Try to stop things from getting worse.
Turn off the water if it's a broken pipe spraying in your living room.
Cover the pot that just burst into flames. (The number of people who make fries on their stove is ASTONISHING to me.) Lift things off the floor that water is moving towards. Use towels/shop vacs...do something to try and stop damages from happening.
These sound obvious, but when people are in a panicked situation sometimes common sense goes out the window.
Buried in the fine print of your policy are 'STATUTORY CONDITIONS'.
These layout requirements for an INSURED (that's you) to at least try and 'mitigate a loss'. That's a fancy way of saying, preventing more damage from happening if you can.
Bottom line here is you can't notice your flooded basement and say
"WOW. Good thing I bought insurance! I'll be at my mom's if you need me."
The worst part about claims is that they often come in bunches. If it's a WINDSTORM, or RAIN EVENT, there's a good chance tons of other people are in the same situation. This means the contractors and adjusters servicing the area are busier than you can even imagine.
In the very moment you NEED one these companies to help you....they are balancing a list of 20 more visits that day, and maybe 200 more in line behind that. Most of the adjusters and Project Managers still provide great service, but often it may not be what a first time claimant is hoping for.
If you call in a claim to your broker, or insurer on a weekend....usually the first person to contact you is from a contractor, or restoration company dispatched by that company. Their priority is to stop the bleeding so to speak. Often they aren't in the position to tell you if there is coverage right away , but they CAN take some steps to temporarily repair damages. Things like patching a roof/or repairing the broken pipe). If you're not handy, this service is a lifesaver regardless of coverage.
3. EXPECT IT TO TAKE A WHILE.
Getting you back to where you were before the incident happened can take some time, so temper your expectations on a quick fix. Claims drag on, and can wear you down if you've not been through them before.
EXAMPLE: A flooded (finished) basement.
It will take a week or more to get it dried out.
Then a week or more to agree on the scope of the damages.
Then who knows how long to collect repair estimates and decide on a contractor.
Then the repairs to be completed.
Replacing, or settling the damaged contents.
AT BEST it's a few weeks. On average a couple months. AT WORST, well let's just hope it's not the worst.
4. DON'T GO AT IT ALONE.
Claims are a whole subset of insurance industry knowledge. It's not something you'll want to just Google when you need it. People who adjust claims, and work in claims departments spend their entire lives immersed in them. They still come across new circumstances every day so believe me when I say two hours on Wikipedia won't have you operating on their level.
You should be able to email, text or call them, and know they'll make time to guide you through the process.
They should be able provide insight on what to expect, follow up with vendors/adjusters when necessary, and give you reassurance that the decisions you're making are in your best interest. It's like taking your own car sales manager with you to buy a new car.
Direct insurance companies are sometimes the lowest price but it's just you and them when it comes to making a claim. I'd be interested to know what the average policy holder leaves on the table or forgets to add to their claim because they had no help through it.
Get a broker BEFORE you have a loss. Once you've made a claim, you're stuck there for awhile until other companies are willing to consider you.