Have you lost your home to a fire? Or, a tornado? Both are tragic events that can leave any homeowner reeling and wondering what to do. After calling in your loss to the claims department of your insurance company you can normally expect to hear from the adjuster assigned to your claim within 48 hrs, so let’s talk a little about that initial phone conversation.
The adjuster will be your key contact throughout the life of your claim. As a Tennessee Public Adjuster here are some questions I would recommend you consider asking in that first call with your adjuster:
1) “Mr. Adjuster, would you mind repeating your name for me and spelling it. I would also appreciate getting the following information from you such as your email address and the following numbers (office, fax and cell phone)”.
Make sure you get all this information on your first call. They might be hesitant but, trust me, you need all of this. Don’t let them talk you out of it. Why? Because communication is paramount and you do not want your adjuster finding any way to avoid talking to you. Claims always take longer than you hope for…and this is most certainly true if you cannot locate your adjuster.
2) “Mr. Adjuster…can you bring me a copy of my policy when we first meet over at the property? Oh, you can’t? Then please order me a complete copy right away. When can I expect it?”
Believe me when I say you need the whole policy. Within the policy is where you find out all of the information on the types of coverages and benefits you are entitled too. Many times after reading the policy I am able to reveal to homeowners that there are additional benefits within their policy that have for some reason not been mentioned by the adjuster to the property owner.
3) “Mr. Adjuster…can you please bring me a copy of my “declarations page” (or “dec” page as we in the industry call it)?”
The “dec” page is a one page summary of your basic coverages and it tells you the policy limits and types of coverage that are specific to your home, business and personal property. The limits on your policy increase a little bit every year so make sure you get a current “dec” page.
4) “What benefits are available to me and my family under the Additional Living Expense coverage of my policy?”
This coverage (which is frequently referred to as ALE) is designed to help you pay for any “new” expenses that you are, or will be, incurring due to the damage to your home. Some of these ALE expenses are for things like renting another house, staying at a motel, higher cell phone bills, longer distances to drive, etc). Ninety-nine percent of homeowners have this coverage. (I will make a list, in another blog, of many of the other items that fit into this category and should be paid for out of your policy).
5) “I understand that insurance companies frequently will give their policyholders an “advance” on their settlement. We are in need of clothes and other necessities so I would appreciate you bringing a check to help us through the first couple of weeks. How much do you normally advance people?”
This check is usually handed over to the policyholder on the first visit from the adjuster and is normally between $1,000 and $10,000. It goes to help you purchase some clothes, replace some lost medicines, pay for a hotel or purchase whatever else is now necessary. Keep in mind, this check can be spent on anything you choose but spend it wisely. This check is taken out of the coverage your policy has allotted for contents and will be deducted from the final settlement check on your personal property (except for those purchases directly related to Additional Living Expenses). So make sure you hold unto all receipts and keep good records and differentiate between the money you spend on new contents and the money you spend for Additional Living Expenses.
Well, there you have it. Not an exhaustive list of questions to ask your adjuster when you first visit over the phone but a good start. Here’s the secret: the more you can project to the adjuster that you have a working knowledge of the claims process the greater the probability that you will be treated fairly. Knowledge is power!
You may or may not like your adjuster but you should be ready to be the squeaky wheel with them. And it’s not grease you’re wanting but attention, assistance, good communication and, finally, a fair settlement.