5 Things to do IMMEDIATELY After a Loss
Okay, what you thought would never happen, happened. A fire or tornado has damaged a substantial portion of your home or business and now you have an insurance claim on your hands. You didn’t ask for this but it’s the hand you’ve been dealt. So now what do you do? There’s a lot of work ahead of you but there’s no point in talking about what you need to be doing two or three weeks from now. Let’s keep you focused on the “present”. As a Tennessee Public Adjuster here are five things I would recommend that you do to help you get started off on the right foot and begin taking control of your claim.
- Notify your agent as soon as possible that you have suffered a loss. They will either give you an “800” number to call or take all of your information and have someone from the claims department call you. Once you talk to someone from the claims department they will give you a claim number. Put it on a piece of paper that will always be with you. If your policy and/or declarations page was destroyed in the fire (or you simply can’t find them) ask them to send you a new one of each.
- Get a seven-pocket file folder to help you keep organized. You can buy them for around $7 at Target or Wal-Mart (we give them out free to our clients) and it may well be the best $7 you will ever spend with regards to your claim. Put all of the receipts for the money you spend on eating out in one pocket, put all the documents the adjuster gives you in another, put the letters sent to you by anyone from the insurance company in another pocket and the personal property inventory list in another. (You’ll find plenty of other uses for the other pockets for things like business cards, estimates, homeowner’s policy etc…). Make copies of everything you give, or send, to the insurance company and keep them in the folder.
- The insurance adjuster assigned to your claim will normally contact you within 48 hours. From the moment he touches base with you he will begin keeping a log on the date, time and substance of any conversation he has with you about the damage to your property. He will keep adding to his log until the claim is closed weeks or months from now. My advice: keep a log yourself. If he thinks it’s important enough to keep a journal then you should keep one too, so start doing so immediately.
- Your policy requires that you take any necessary and reasonable steps to prevent additional damage to the property or theft of the contents. Pay someone as soon as possible to board up any busted out windows or doors and put a tarp over any holes in the roof. Your insurance company will reimburse you for these expenses so keep any receipts associated with this task.
- Preserve the loss. How? First, take hundreds of digital pictures showing all the damage to the exterior and the interior of the property. And don’t forget to take close-ups of all the personal property that’s been damaged. There is no such thing as “to few” pictures. The old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is most appropriate in the first few days after suffering a loss. While the insurance adjuster is also going to take hundreds of photos of the damage he will never make those copies available to you (even if he says he will, he won’t). This is your loss so take responsibility for documenting it thoroughly. And second, and most importantly, DO NOT start doing any “tear out” or demolition of the property. Preserve the damage just as it was until the claim has been settled.
I hope you find all of this helpful. These tips apply for about any type of loss in about any state and particularly so for those states that don’t allow for public adjusters, like Alabama.