What You Need to Know When Filing a Homeowners Claim

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The Indiana Department of Insurance provides tips to help in the event your home is damaged or destroyed by a covered disaster.

Indianapolis — Homeowners insurance includes a type of property insurance that pays for losses and damages to your home if it is damaged or destroyed by fire, weather, theft, or another covered disaster. When those events happen, you will need to file a claim. The Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI) provides tips and resources to assist you through the process.

WHAT TO CONSIDER BEFORE FILING A CLAIM
Know when to file a claim. Before reporting the property damage to your home, find out what your deductible is. If the damage is minor, you might decide you are better off paying for the repairs out of pocket. If you believe the damage will cost more than your deductible to repair, or there is a lot of damage, you may want to file a claim.

If you decide to file a claim, it is important to notify your insurance company right away. The amount of time you have to report your claim varies by state.

Here are the steps you will need to take:

  • Make a list of all your damaged property. You will need this when you meet with your adjuster.
  • Take photos and videos of damage.
  • Contact your insurance company or agent with your policy number, name, address, and phone number.
  • You will need to explain what happened and describe the extent of the property damage.

WHAT IF YOUR HOME HAS FLOOD DAMAGE
Flood damage is generally not covered by a standard homeowners or renter’s insurance policy. If you have a separate flood insurance policy, remember to include a copy of the policy and the contact details for the insurer on your list. Flood is a covered event in most auto insurance policies.

Flood insurance is a separate coverage you can purchase through an agent or insurer participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It is a program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which works closely with more than 80 private insurance companies to offer affordable flood insurance to homeowners, renters and business owners. In order to qualify for flood insurance, the home or business must be in a community that has joined the NFIP. If your community does not participate in the NFIP, contact your licensed insurance agent to ask about private flood insurance.

It is important to note that the NFIP insurance policy does not go into effect immediately after you purchase it. There is typically a 30-day waiting period unless a policy is bought at the same time as a newly purchased home.

KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ACTUAL CASH VALUE AND REPLACEMENT COST
Actual Cash Value is the cost to replace your damaged, stolen or destroyed personal property with new property of like kind and quality, minus depreciation. It is what you would pay at today’s cost, minus the depreciation. It is important to account for depreciation when considering Actual Cash Value coverage. Keep in mind that the cost of the insured property will be valued at a lower amount based on wear and tear and the age of the property. You will, however, be reimbursed for the actual cash value of your property at the time of the claim, minus your deductible.

Replacement Cost is the amount it would take to replace or rebuild your home or repair damages with materials of similar kind and quality, without deducting for depreciation. In other words, it is what you would pay to replace your property at today’s cost. Many insurance companies require homes to be insured for at least 80 percent of their replacement value. With 80 percent coverage, the insurance company will pay losses in full, less any deductible, up to the face amount of your policy.

THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO PREPARE
Take an inventory. Go through every room in your home; write down and take pictures or videos of everything in the room. Inventory everything, including valuable items such as antiques, electronics, jewelry, collectibles, and guns.

Do this before a disaster strikes. The NAIC’s free Home Inventory App will help you with the process. You can download it from the App Store and Google Play. It allows you to take pictures and document your items by room and category.

If you do not use an app for your inventory, store your inventory in a secure place at another location, such as your workplace, a safe deposit box, a relative’s house, or online.

  • Review and update your inventory annually, including your pictures/videos.
  • Update your inventory when you buy new items.
  • Keep receipts with your inventory for all repairs and new items you buy for proof if you have to file a claim.

Work from memory if your property was destroyed and you have no records.

  • Review photos (e.g., on your cell phone or from family or friends) taken inside your home. That may help you make the list.
  • Search online retailers to help estimate costs.

Consider getting appraisals for high-value items, such as jewelry, antiques, electronics, collectibles, and guns, and scheduling them under the policy. Most homeowner’s policies only have fixed limits and fixed causes of loss for these items. The limits are minimal to the value of some of these items. If you want to have valuable items properly covered, they need to be specifically scheduled on the policy and backed up by a current and valid appraisal.

Collect the 24-hour contact information for your insurance agent and insurer and enter it as a contact on your smartphone. Make a list that includes your policy numbers, insurer and insurance agent’s phone numbers, website addresses and mailing addresses. Also, check to see if the company or agent has an emergency information hotline.

Know how to work with contractors. A contractor is someone you hire to manage the repair of your home. The contractor is responsible for supplying the necessary equipment, material, labor, and services to complete repairs. Don’t feel rushed or pushed to agree with something you aren’t comfortable with when it comes to repairs. It might help to have your contractor meet with you and the insurance adjuster.

HOW THE IDOI CAN HELP YOU WITH A COMPLAINT ABOUT A CLAIM
If the insurance company has not followed the terms and conditions of your policy, you may submit a consumer complaint form with the IDOI Consumer Services Division. The IDOI can obtain information or explanations on your behalf from the insurance company or their representatives and review the information for compliance with statues, regulations, and policy contracts. The IDOI may take corrective action against a company if actions are in violation of a statute, regulation, or policy the IDOI enforces. Visit in.gov/idoi/consumer-services to learn more about the complaint process.

About the Indiana Department of Insurance
The Indiana Department of Insurance protects Indiana’s insurance consumers by monitoring and regulating the financial strengths and market conduct activities of insurance companies and agents. The IDOI monitors insurance companies and agents for compliance with state laws to protect consumers and to offer them the best array of insurance products available. The IDOI also assists Hoosiers with insurance questions and provides guidance in understanding how insurance policies work.

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