A few tips on how to file a claim after a natural disaster, fire or theft.
Tip 1: Read Your Insurance Policy
If you don’t have it, ask your insurance agent to send or bring a copy for you. Check your policy for specifics and document every action you take.
WHN TIP — Two Lists/Two Folders: Start an “Admin” list and an “Expenses” list on paper or online, with corresponding folders for both. “Admin” tracks phone calls, notes and details relating to the claim. “Expenses” tracks all expenses — no matter how small. Include dates and times for all entries, and put receipts and paperwork in the appropriate folder for back-up documentation.
Tip 2: Call Your Insurance Company
Contact your insurance agent or local company representative, or ask a friend or family member to contact them for you. Do this as soon as possible even if you’re far from home.
Key information you’ll need:
- Date notified
- Date of occurrence
- Insurance agency name
- Agent’s name
- Phones (office and cell)
- Your policy number
- Additional tracking numbers
WHN TIP – What’s the Number? Don’t have your insurance agency’s number? Call toll-free directory assistance at (800) 555-1212 or (877) 999-6442 for the toll-free number to your insurance company.
Tip 3: Ask About Procedures and Timeframes
- What are the next steps?
- What forms or documents are needed to support my claim? (The insurance company may require a proof-of-loss form, as well as documents relating to your claim, such as medical and home-repair bills, bids and receipts. Often, they will ask for photos that show what was in your house before the damage.)
WHN TIP – Request Photos From Friends and Family. If you don’t have any photos or they were damaged in the incident, ask relatives and friends for pictures taken in your home during holidays, birthdays, dinners and other events. In the background, you’ll see your home and belongings!
- What, if any, information is needed from the police or fire departments in order to process my claim?
- When is the insurance company’s claims or field adjuster coming to assess the damage? (Get full contact information: name, office and cell numbers, date and time of visit.)
Take detailed notes, documenting each conversation on your “Admin” list. Include the following:
- Date and time of phone call/meeting
- Name of person you spoke with
- Items and tasks discussed
- Next steps for each item and task, the deadline for completion and who is responsible for what.
WHN TIP – You Have Options! You do not have to file a claim or take a claim check right away. Consider other options such as hiring an independent public adjuster who can act as an intermediary between you and the insurance company. Remember, it’s up to you to decide when or when not to file your insurance claim. Read our article Working with a Claims and/or Public Adjuster.
Tip 4: Track Your Expenses
WHN TIP — Deductions? Ask your insurance agent which expenses, if any, will be deducted from your total insurance claim amount. For example, temporary housing, transportation, and living expenses may be subtracted from the final claim amount to be received.
Use your “Expenses” list to keep a record of the expenses you incur as a result of the incident. You may be reimbursed under your policy, or you may be able to claim them on your income tax return.
WHN TIP – Tax-Deductible? Some losses may be tax-deductible. Keep receipts of what you spend for repairs or replacements, as well as those for living expenses, to help calculate your return. Contact your local IRS office for publication 547 (Tax Information on Disasters, Casualty Losses and Thefts). By filing Form 1045, (Application for Tentative Refund), you may be able to receive a quick refund.
Note on each receipt what was purchased and enter details on your “Expenses” list. If you are using a credit card, designate one card for post-event expenses, stapling all receipts to your monthly credit card statement for backup.
Receipts could include:
- Building contractors
- Cell phone, pager or another method of communication
- Child care or other care providers
- Cleaning services (clothes and house)
- Clothing, personal items (medications, toiletries)
- Food (purchased from store and restaurant)
- Hotels or other temporary living expenses
- Mailbox rental (if mail needs to be redirected or forwarded)
- Pet supplies, boarding costs or pet care providers (for onsite care)
- Security services (to prevent looting)
- Storage rental unit for possessions or vehicles
- Temporary business relocation costs (if business was home-based) including
answering service and other expenses
WHN TIP — Keep Copies! Make a copy of everything you send to the insurance company: forms, receipts, estimates. And don’t give away your last copy! Scanning all the documents will ensure that you have copies to print out or email as needed.
Photo Credit: Olu Eletu