A property insurance claim can be a devastating and life-altering event for a policyholder, but for an insurer, it is routine business. An insurance claim is a business negotiation, and policyholders must approach the adjustment and settlement of their property insurance claim as they would any other business transaction involving a large investment. Few homeowners would risk the value of their home without substantial research and strict oversight, and an insurance claim should be treated no differently. A residential property claim involves restoring or replacing the property – both the structure and the personal property inside the dwelling – to pre-loss conditions within the limits of insurance purchased. Policyholders are faced with the tasks of investigating and documenting losses and learning the terms and conditions of insurance policies: the insurance coverages available, limitations on those coverages, deductibles, conditions precedent, and specific requirements necessary to make an insurance claim.
Typical residential property insurance policies offer:
- “Ordinance” or “Law” which provides coverage—typically a percentage of the policy limits—in the event that building codes, enacted after a structure was built, require additional features not contained in the covered structure at the time of loss. Policyholders who purchase replacement cost coverage may expect that upgrades required by law are included in the coverage purchased, but some policies exclude these increased costs of repair.
- “Additional Living Expense” pays the costs of living in a temporary location if a covered loss makes the damaged home unlivable. This could include hotel bills, rent, and other increased costs of living incurred while the home is being repaired or rebuilt. These benefits are usually subject to both time and monetary limitations.
If only part of a structure or its contents is to be repaired or replaced, issues arise if the repaired portion cannot blend with the remaining undamaged property. If repairs are obvious, they may diminish a property’s value. Although language varies with each particular policy, policyholders may have the right to demand that covered property is restored to a seamless pre-loss condition.
Be aware of who the insurance company sends to assess your property insurance claim.
Insurance companies should be sending licensed insurance adjusters to your property; however, sometimes the first responders sent to assess the damage are not qualified. It is important to ask the person who visits your property for a business card, and it should state a first and last name and all license numbers (they should be licensed with the state). Another smart procedure is to write down the name and specific purpose of everyone who visits your property. While it is common to be in a state of distress, you must be attentive and careful when signing any documents. Cooperating with insurance companies is a part of all policies, and you must think about who has your best interests in mind. The representatives are there to assess coverage for your loss, but they are working for the insurance company, not the policyholder. In most states, you have the right to hire your own adjuster who can help you understand all the information surrounding your policy and claim, as well as negotiate with the insurance company.
Need More Information?
If your property insurance claim has been denied, delayed or underpaid, contact The Johns Law Firm, LLC today for a free consultation.