Some insurance companies may require you to fill out and sign a proof of loss form. This formal statement provides details of your losses and the amount of money you're claiming and acts as a legal record. Some companies waive this requirement after a disaster if you've met with the adjuster, especially if your claim is not complicated. The choice of repair firms is yours. If your home was adequately insured, you won't have to settle for anything less than you had before the disaster.
Be sure the contractor is giving you the same quality materials. Don't get permanent repairs done until after the adjuster has approved the price. If you've received bids, show them to the adjuster. If the adjuster agrees with one of your bids, then the repair process can begin.
If the bids are too high, ask the adjuster to negotiate a better price with the contractor. Adjusters may also recommend firms that they have worked with before.
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Some insurance companies even guarantee the work of firms they recommend, but such programs are not available everywhere. Make sure contractors get the proper building permits. Make sure you have figures to back up your claim for more money. If you and your insurance company still disagree, your policy allows for an independent appraisal of the loss. In this case, both you and your insurance company hire independent appraisers who choose a mediator.
The decision of any two of these three people is binding.
You and your insurance company each pay for your appraiser and share the other costs. However, disputes rarely get to this stage. Some insurance companies may offer a slightly different way of settling a dispute called arbitration. When settlement differences are arbitrated, a neutral arbiter hears the arguments of both sides and then makes a final decision. How you receive the money: When both the dwelling and the contents of your home are damaged, you generally get two separate checks from your insurance company.
If your home is mortgaged, the check for home repairs will generally be made out to you and the mortgage lender.
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As a condition of granting a mortgage, lenders usually require that they are named in the homeowners policy and that they are a party to any insurance payments related to the structure. The lender gets equal rights to the insurance check to ensure that the necessary repairs are made to the property in which it has a significant financial interest. This means that the mortgage company or bank will have to endorse the check. Lenders generally put the money in an escrow account and pay for the repairs as the work is completed. You should show the mortgage lender your contractor's bid and say how much the contractor wants up front to start the job.
Your mortgage company may want to inspect the finished job before releasing the funds for payment. If you don't get a separate check from your insurance company for the contents of your home and other expenses, the lender should release the insurance payments that don't relate to the dwelling.
It should also release funds that exceed the balance of the mortgage. State bank regulators often publish guidelines for banks to follow after a major disaster. Contact state regulatory offices to find out what these guidelines are.
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Some construction firms want you to sign a direction to pay form that allows your insurance company to pay the firm directly. The firm then will bill your insurance company directly and attach the form you signed. Make certain that you're completely satisfied with the repair work and that the job has been completed before signing any forms. If you have a replacement cost policy for your personal possessions, you normally need to replace the damaged items before your insurance company will pay.
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If you decide not to replace some items, you will be paid their actual cash value. Your insurance company will generally allow you several months from the date of the cash value payment to replace the items and collect full replacement cost. Find out how many months you are allowed. Some insurance companies supply lists of vendors that can help replace your property.
Some companies may supply some replacement items themselves. After your claim has been settled and the repair work is underway: Take the time to re-evaluate your homeowners insurance coverage. For example, was your home adequately insured? Did you have replacement cost coverage for your personal property? Talk to your insurance agent or company representative about possible changes. Download a PDF version of this brochure. Next steps: Find out more about filing an insurance claim after a disaster. What you need to know about how to file a claim how the claim process works what's covered and what's not First steps Contact your agent or company immediately.
To substantiate your loss, prepare an inventory of damaged or destroyed items and give a copy to the adjuster along with copies of any receipts. You should also consider photographing or videotaping the damage. If your property was destroyed or you no longer have any records, work from memory.
Identify structural damage to your home and other structures such as a garage, tool shed or in-ground swimming pool. Make a list of everything you want to show the adjuster, for example, cracks in the walls and missing roof tiles. You should also get the electrical system checked. Most insurance companies pay for these inspections.
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Get written bids from licensed contractors. The bids should include details of the materials to be used and prices on a line-by-line basis. This makes adjusting the claim faster and simpler. Keep copies of the lists and other documents you submit to your insurance company. Also keep copies of whatever paperwork your insurance company gives you and record the names and phone numbers of everyone you speak to. Factors that determine the amount of settlement you get Type of policy Replacement Cost and Actual Cash Value: Replacement cost policies provides you with the dollar amount needed to replace a damaged item with one of similar kind and quality without deducting for depreciation the decrease in value due to age, wear and tear, and other factors.
Policy limits Most insurance policies provide adequate coverage because they include an inflation-guard clause to keep up with increases in local building costs. Temporary living expenses If you can't live in your home because of the damage, your insurance company will advance you money to pay for reasonable additional living expenses. Rebuilding and making repairs If your home was destroyed, you have several options. You can rebuild a new home on the same site.
Depending on state law, you can sell the land and build or buy a house in a different place, even another state. You can decide that you would rather rent. Other factors Compliance with current building codes: Building codes require structures to be built to certain minimum standards. If there has been a natural disaster, such as a tornado or hurricane, the adjuster may be visiting many, many properties in the area. In such circumstances the adjuster may temporarily relocate in the area to handle the numerous claims. There are several different types of insurance claim adjusters. However, if you have a bigger loss, like a house destroyed by fire, or extensive storm damage, and the insurance company adjuster and you cannot agree on key aspects of your claim, it may be time to consult a public adjuster or an attorney.
A public adjuster usually works for a percentage of the eventual settlement with the insurance company similar to a personal injury attorney's contingency fee.
No, in fact it is illegal for an adjuster to engage in the practice of law. The adjuster takes the facts of your claim -- what happened, when, how -- and applies them to your policy. The adjuster should not give you or the insurance company legal advice of any kind. It's important to be honest with your adjuster and cooperate, right from the beginning of the claims process. It's helpful to have a copy of your insurance policy handy, and to know what your duties are when you a file a claim. Make sure you contact the insurance company promptly after a loss, and document everything.
This may mean taking pictures, keeping receipts, getting medical records, obtaining estimates from contractors, and securing other vital information. The more information you provide the adjuster, the easier it is for the claim to move forward quickly.
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