Avoiding the Pitfalls: 9 Common Mistakes People Make When Filing a Property Damage Claim

August 20, 2018 by Susan Paige

Injured or not, you must file insurance claims when your property is damaged. Cars, roofs, mobile homes, and more can be damaged by accident, fire, crash, hail, flood, or fire. So, if you have a property insurance policy—and for too many, that’s a big “if,” you need to know how to avoid pitfalls and file a claim effectively.

Each step in the claims filing process will cost you time if you must repeat it. And, that time will affect your ability to return to a normal life. It will get the car repaired, the roof fixed, or the house replaced sooner if the process flows correctly.

9 common mistakes people make when filing a property damage claim:

Forbes notes, “When you file a claim, you and your insurance company have competing interests. The company is not your advocate. You want as much money as possible from them for repairs, while they want to repair your damage for the lowest cost. There’s nothing out of place with either motivation.” So, to help the process work in your favor, try avoiding the pitfalls.

Making friends with the insurance adjuster. You should be courteous and cooperative with the insurance adjuster. You should not lie or fabricate evidence. But, you also should not give information unless it is requested.

The adjuster does not come with money in their pocket. They do not make final decisions. They present what they see and what you provide to their underwriters who decide how much will be paid. At the same time, they are working in their company’s interest and their recommendations carry weight, so your relationship should be mutually cordial and informative.

Caving in to pressure. You should make a point of studying your insurance policy sometime when you are not under pressure. If you see things that confuse or bother you, you should call your insurance agent for clarification.

That can begin a thorough process of note taking to collect with dates and names of contacts. With that attached to your policy, you are in a more informed position with regard to your rights under the insurance policy. You can firm and patient with better information in your pocket.

Doing it on your own. The smallest claims can become the biggest nightmares. A slip and fall on your property can become a lawsuit. A no apparent damage rear end car accident can become a huge medical claim. And, the loss of your home and contents can be difficult to estimate.

The bigger and more complex the loss, the sooner you need to contact a third-party property loss adjuster. With your house burned to the ground, your family disbursed among relatives, your clothing, tools, furniture, and valuables destroyed, you need expert help in putting a price on your property damage claim.

Leaving it to others. A third-party adjuster can be invaluable. But, there are steps you must take from the start.

  • Take pictures of everything from every angle. That can be emotional and difficult, but the photos are great evidence.
  • Keep records. You must save every paper, notice, form, and receipt involved in the process.
  • Prevent further damage. After contacting the insurance company, you should tell them what steps you will take to avoid more damage, like covering a gap in the roofing with a waterproof tarp.

Putting off the claim. For financial accounting reasons, businesses like to settle claims rather quickly because unsettled claims remain liabilities on their books.

However, delaying making a claim does not do you any good. You will lose documents, forget details, and may even go past the limit for filing claims.

Paying your own claims. Too many people who have insurance do not enter claims. They fear their rates will increase if they file a little claim, so they agree to pay the cost themselves.

However, that apparently small claim can blow up in your face. If you have a fender bender and agree to pay the other driver’s $200 repair, you remain exposed to the other driver’s later claim of a serious back injury.

Assuming your insurance company is right. Insurance companies do make mistakes. They are not trying to cheat you, but they may be wrong about local costs, for example.

The bigger the insurance company, the more processes they follow. Those processes may enter the wrong data, or the processors can process the wrong forms. As a result, they come to incorrect conclusions on incorrect input.

Keeping your insurance records at home. If you have serious damage to your home, you stand to lose your insurance policy, documents, and proofs of value.

It makes better sense to store your important papers in a fireproof safe or bank savings box. Without those records, you have no proof of purchase on appliances, jewelry, electronics, and more.

Failing to inventory. After a major property loss, you will not remember all the things you lost unless you have an inventory of contents. In a loss affecting your family, the respective parents and children will each have a different mental inventory.

So, it makes great good sense to prepare a physical inventory that includes written lists, receipts, dated photos, and downloaded videos of your property inside and outside. This will help you remember and provide important proofs for the insurance companies.

Avoiding the pitfalls of filing property damage claims

The Los Angeles Times reported on estimated claims on damage to homes, cars, and commercial property at $12 billion in California alone, but that was the result of its wildfire losses from October through December 2017. And, this year has seen more extensive fires, flooding in unexpected areas, tornadoes rolling across more states.

Property insurance claims do not file themselves. There’s much more involved than making a call or completing a form. Insurance companies may appear to set up significant hurdles, but most of the back and forth could be eliminated with correct, timely, and complete filings.


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