Unfortunately accidents can happen, and always more than we would like them to. When something goes wrong, it is the job of your insurance company to make sure that you are made whole financially after a covered incident occurs. Knowing what to do and how to best let the insurance company serve you is key to getting any insurance claim you file paid quickly and completely. Here are the basic steps to the process and some helpful tips to expedite the process:
- Take Care of the Problem as Best as You Can: The first thing to do after an accident is to address any lingering issues. For an auto accident, file a policy report, after a workplace incident, try to identify the source of the problem and prevent a recurrence or exacerbation of the damages. The most important thing is to be sure you are doing everything in your power to prevent further injury or damage.
- Collect Supporting Evidence: Nearly every phone has a camera built in now, so use it liberally. The best way to show the insurance company exactly what happened is to gather pictures, police reports, medical bills, etc. right after the incident. Time is of the essence here, so make sure you note the time of the pictures and documents as well as the time of the accident. Send copies of all supporting evidence to the insurance company with your forms.
- Report the Claim Immediately: The sooner you report the claim to your insurance provider, the quicker the claims adjuster can assess the damage and determine how much they need to pay for the damages. While your insurance agent serves as a liaison between you and the insurer, they are not able to file claims for you. Instead, contact the insuring company (the one on your policy) and let them know about your incident. Doing this within 24 to 48 hours is ideal.
- Fill out all of the Forms Sent to You: When you notify the insurance company, they will send you all of the necessary paperwork. Filling in each form they send quickly and completely will make the process much easier on you and the company, which means less extra contact and faster claim payment.
- Get an Estimate: Whether it is a home repair, business expense, medical treatment, or some other cost, get an estimate for the damage from a reputable professional; some companies will provide you with a list of professionals that can help with this. Let the insurance company know what the professional quoted. For smaller claims, this estimate should be sufficient for the payout amount if it is deemed within the reasonable price range for the repair. Larger claims will likely involve an inspection by a claims specialist in the specific incident field who will work with the claimant to determine a cost of damages.
- Go Ahead and Make Necessary Repairs: Since claim processing takes some time, you should fix any lingering problems directly related to the claim so that you avoid further claims or loss of productivity. This saves both you and the insurance company from having to make preventable repairs to the property or pay for lost work time. Just be sure to properly document the repairs and keep any invoices or receipts; the company should reimburse you fully for the costs if you can show that they were important for avoiding further losses.
- Be Patient and Keep in Contact with the Company: Paperwork and claim verification takes time. Keep up to date on your claim by staying in touch with the claim representative assigned to you. If you feel like the claim is taking longer than necessary to process and your representative is being unresponsive, then contact the insurance company for an explanation, your agent for follow up, and your state’s insurance office as a final resort. These groups will follow up on your specific claim and make sure it is handled appropriately and expediently.
Here are a few extra tips and things to remember for filing a claim:
- Your agent can not handle your claim personally, but they can direct you to the correct company and department if you need the contact information.
- Lawyers should be a last resort. First contact the state insurance department to let them know if you are unsatisfied with the claim processing or settlement. Legal fees are expensive (often hundreds of dollars just to talk about your case) and usually unnecessary if you contact the correct governing bodies.
- Know what your policy covers. The specific coverages and exclusions are listed on every policy and also include the limits for each section. Be sure that your insurance covers your specific claim.
- Take pictures of all insured property as soon as you get your policy. Dated before and after pictures are the easiest way to prove to the insurance company that a loss occurred and the extent of the damage.
- Look up your company’s claim handling reviews. The internet is full of comment sites and company reviews; look up your company and see how it compares to others when handling claims. If the reviews are poor, then you may be in for a headache if you ever have to file a claim. AM Best Ratings and J.D. Powers Awards are good places to start looking for highly rated companies.