Homeowners Insurance Claims: What to do & Handling Adjusters!
Let’s talk about home insurance claims: what to do and how to talk to adjusters. We’re going to cover these four different topics:
- What do you do before you turn in the claim
- How do you report a claim
- What to expect in the process
- How to talk to the adjuster
We’re discussing all aspects of turning in a claim on your homeowner insurance policy. We’re going to talk about those four different topics, but let’s start with the first one…
What do you do before you turn in a claim?
The first thing you need to do is go ahead and make sure to stop the damage. Let’s say that a tree has come through your roof, or done damaged, or you got water coming into your house because of a storm. The first thing is to call a roofer and have them come out and put a tarp over your roof to keep the damage from getting worse, and then make sure you get your family to someplace safe.
What if you have a fire? Call the fire department, get them there so they can respond to the claim, and put the fire out to stop the damage, to keep it from being any worse. Let’s say that you got a water pipe that bursts inside of the house. Maybe it’s the washing machine hose that has burst. You got up in the morning, you hear some water running, and you notice the floor is wet, and you’re wondering, “Uh oh, that’s not right.” You follow the noise. You go to the laundry room. You see that the water pipe is burst. Well, turn off the water and stop the water so that the damage is not going to get any worse.
The first thing you need to do is secure your home and then secure your family. That’s the first thing you want to do. You secure your home, make sure the damage is not going to get any worse. Get them someplace safe so that they don’t have to be worried about where they’re going to stay.
How do you report a claim?
Call your insurance agent. This is an important step, especially if you have an independent insurance agent. What we’re going to do when you first call us is we’re going to ask you a series of questions. Those questions are going to be determined by a few different things. One of them is going to be, do you actually have a claim or not? Now, you may be thinking, “Well, okay, if I’ve got roof damage, or I’ve got water in my house, or a fire, surely I’ve got a claim. I want to just go ahead and get that reported. I want to get an adjuster to my house as fast as possible.” Maybe you do, maybe you don’t.
That’s where an independent insurance agent is going to help you because if you’ve got a direct writer, or just an agent that you call an 800 number and you don’t have a relationship with whoever that agent is, as you would with your independent insurance agent, they’re just going to take the information from you and report a claim, and then you’re going to have what is called a chargeable incident, or a chargeable claim against you, regardless if they pay you or not. Now, this is really important. Your independent agent, such as we are, is going to ask you a few questions to make sure that you need to report the claim or not. The reason we do that is to make sure that you don’t have an incident on your record that is going to be chargeable by your insurance company, and then they don’t even pay you anything.
Understand this… the insurance company is not looking to just find some sort of excuse to charge you with something and charge you more money. Most of the policies are going to have some sort of a discount on your policy if you have never filed a claim before. It’s called a claims-free discount. Well, if you have a claim, whether they pay you or not, you just lost that claims-free discount.
We’re going to talk to you and make sure you know if you need to report this or not. We’re going to ask you a few different questions such as, you’ve got roof damage. Have you talked to a roofer yet? You may say no, I just don’t want to get a roofer to come out. Well, why do you think you have roof damage? I know we had a hailstorm come through. My neighbor is getting a new roof, so I wanted to just come to look and just see. The problem with that is, as much we would love to be able to just send an adjuster to come and take a look and just tell you whether you got damage or not, unfortunately, that’s an expense for them and it’s going to become a chargeable claim.
That is just the system and how it works. I know that doesn’t necessarily feel right, but that is how it works. What we’re going to advise you to do is to reach out to a roofer and have them come take a look, and just see if you’ve got damage, or if the roof is worn out, or if your roof is fine. Typically, if you’ve got a pretty new roof and there’s pea-size hail, your roof is probably fine, but they will come out, take a look and make sure. What we suggest is that whether it’s a roofer or contractor, or whoever else it is, to make sure that you look them up online, see do they have any reviews and do they have a bunch of five-star reviews?
If it’s a contractor who doesn’t have a bunch of reviews, then I would suggest that they stay clear from them and stay with one that you see is trusted. You may also reach out to the community, maybe through social media, or other things, and just ask around, “Hey, is there a roofer you can suggest?” We, at our agency, have roofers that we have come to know and respect and know that they typically know, and will look out for the best for you and for the company to determine if you actually have a chargeable claim or not.
First, as an independent agency, we’re going to direct you to do that. We’re also going to ask you a bunch of questions and we’re going to try to figure out how bad is the damage. Do we need to tell the company that they need to send somebody out to take care of water mitigation, sucking up water because you have a busted water line? Or if we need to tell them, “Hey, they’re going to need a place to stay. Can you please speed up sending money to them so they can find another place to stay in the meantime while their house is being repaired?” We’re going to do those different things, and we’re going to make sure that the adjuster has a full picture of what to expect, make sure they have the best contact for you, and also tell you what to expect. Make sure you have all the contact information you need for the adjuster and know when to expect a call from them. Also, since we’ll have that information for you, we can be a second person to talk to on the claim.
What to expect after you file a claim
You’ve talked to the agent, the agent has said, “Yes, we need to report a claim. We’re going to get a claim turned in for you.” They ask you some questions, give that information to the insurance company, to the adjuster, and then they will reach out to you. Here’s what’s going to happen. Your agent’s going to give you the information that they gather from the insurance company, which is going to include your claim number, your policy number, the insurance company’s name, who the adjuster is, what their email address is, and then also what their direct phone number is. We’re going to provide those pieces of information for you
What’s going to happen after that? Your adjuster’s going to call you within a business day. If it’s in the morning that you report it, probably by the end of the day they should talk to you and tell you, “Hey, I just want to get the initial assessment. If we need to get some sort of money to you quickly so you can find a place to stay, we’ll wire that money to you.” Also, they’ll let you know when they’re going to come out to assess the damage that you have. Then they come out and assess the damage. They’re going to take a look at your home, walk through the damaged area, draw some diagrams, take some pictures, make a bunch of notes, then they will go back to their office to finish that. Now, they may be able to give you some sort of an idea, but just understand that whatever idea they give you at that time is probably not firm yet.
They’ll go back to the office; they’ll finish figuring out what is it going to cost. What is it going to cost per room? What is it going to cost to get your home back as it should be? Is there somebody else that’s at fault, and we can get them to pay for it, instead of you paying for it? They’re going to give you an estimate on how much time they believe it’s going to take. Now, when you get that estimate, it may be a little bit confusing to you, but just remember, you can call out to your adjuster and just have them help you understand what you’re looking at because there’s going to be a lot of data on that report. It’s okay. They’re more than happy to help you. Your agent is also more than happy to help you, but just understand at this point, your adjuster is the best point of reference for your claim.
You’ll get that estimate and you’re going to notice a few different things. One of them is that the total that they’re going to pay may or may not match what it’s going to cost, based on the contractor you’ve talked to. If that happens, don’t worry. Don’t freak out. It’ll be okay. Talk to the contractor, see what’s maybe missing, and then reach out to the adjuster and just say, “Hey, I noticed that you came up with this number. My contractor came up with this number. They’re different. Can we take a look to see what we can figure out?” They’re more than happy to take a look at that. Nobody’s perfect- including claim’s adjusters. Maybe the cost is higher than he expected for labor or materials, or maybe he just missed something. It happens. We’re all human.
Reach out to them, talk about it, and see if you can work it out. If you have any trouble, reach out to your agent, and they’ll help you out. Another thing you’re going to notice is that the claim’s initial payment is going to be for actual cash value. They’re going to have this number on there either called recoverable depreciation, hold back, or something along those lines. Understand this is what the process is. Your adjuster will cut you a check for the actual cash value amount, which is going to take away depreciation. They will pay that back to you once you show that you’ve done the work. This is how all insurance policies work. Now, you may be thinking, but I thought I had a replacement cost policy. Well, you may. You may not.
This might be a good time for you to call your agent and just verify, or look at your policy and see, do I have replacement costs? If you’re unsure about it, we’ll be glad to take a look at it with you to see if we can help you understand what you have. If you have an actual cash value policy, we’ll do our best to get you a replacement cost policy to make sure you’re adequately covered.
You’re at this stage where you’ve got the damages repaired and everything is done. You’ll get an invoice from your contractors. You want to send that to your adjuster. At that time, they will then cut a check to you, or pay you the difference, so that then, at that time, you get the recoverable depreciation back for your claim. That’s the different steps to it. Just remember, you get the ACV amount first, depending on the amount of the claim. Don’t panic, you’ll get the rest of it back, you just need to show that you’ve done the work.
How to deal with claims adjusters
You need to remember that you’re dealing with a person and that they are professionals. This is what they do, every single day. They are highly trained in figuring out how much it’s going to cost to get your house back to what it was before the accident. Most of these people have families. They understand where you’re at, and what’s going on in your life. They want to do everything that they can to take good care of you, and to make sure that your home is back to it’s restored and livable conditions. They’re not out to get you. They’re not out to rip you off. They’re not out to save the insurance company as much money as they can. They’re not looking for loopholes to try to not pay out your claim. They are out to make sure that they do a good job for you, to make sure that you’re happy, and to take care of you during this difficult time.
I know there are lots of bad reviews out there for insurance companies across the board. Every one of the insurance companies out there, unfortunately, has terrible reviews when it comes to claims, but here’s the deal. People don’t typically just go out and leave reviews for insurance companies just because. They don’t typically go out and leave them whenever something really good happens either. They usually leave it about whoever their insurance agent is, NOT the adjuster. Do a Google search for Reed Insurance in Louisiana, and you’ll see that we’ve got tons and tons of five-star reviews because we do a great job for our clients. We’ve got a ton of great reviews, but insurance companies just don’t get that.
Typically, the only time that there’s a trigger that causes somebody to give a review is when something bad has happened. The reality is, we’re all human. We all make mistakes. We all have bad days. Sometimes that adjuster may have just had a bad day, or they may have just missed something. They may have something really bad has happened in their life, or they’re maybe just not feeling very well. Whoever they talked to before may have been very difficult. You’re dealing with a person and if they come across maybe a little bit sharp, or something like that, just ask them, “Hey, how’s your day going? Look, I noticed that maybe something’s bothering you. Is this not a good time? Maybe we can talk at another time,” Just ask them how their day’s going. You’ll probably find out that because you asked, and you showed compassion to them, they’re going to work hard, even harder, to make sure they take good care of you. Be aware of that.
Sometimes it is a little bit hard to get them on the phone. Adjusters handle a lot of claims. They’re usually very fast, but they spend a lot of time on the phone talking to claimants. They don’t understand the claims process, or they have questions, or they’re trying to work something out for another client. Understand that it may be a little bit difficult, so be watching for them to call you, and just know that they’re going to call you from a number that you may not recognize. If they give you options for text messaging or email, you may also use those avenues and maybe give them a time that’s good for you, and maybe schedule a time with them to talk.
I think that is some tips that will help you to know how to make sure that the claim goes smoothly, and that your experience with the adjuster goes smoothly. I hope these four different tips that I’ve given to you will help you in your claims process, help you to understand what to expect so that you don’t have to be scared whenever that day does come because the day will come, one day when you have a claim and then you’ll need to go through these different steps and stages of the claim.
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Beaux Pilgrim, CEO