Start Your Own Claim File For Your Fire Insurance Loss
UPDATED: April 6, 2016
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Your home may be the largest asset you own, so protecting it against fire loss just makes sense. In the event of such a disaster, you’re covered and your insurer will put you back into the position you were in before the fire. While that’s true theoretically, many experts say that may be easier said than done.
Insurance companies don’t operate the same they did 25 years ago when there was one claim file and one adjuster that handled the matter from beginning to end. Today, there could be several claim files – many of them electronic – and several adjusters located in different parts of the country – even the world. That’s why experts say that it’s more important than ever to start your own claim file.
One expert’s opinion
Dave Peterson, a fire insurance expert who has practiced in the insurance industry for over 30 years, explains the importance of maintaining your own file. “In most cases, it’s best to create a paper trail because when you start doing things verbally, the conversation may or may not be memorialized by the insurance company. They’re supposed to memorialize them, but unfortunately, a lot of the phone conversations don’t get memorialized. My suggestion would be to write letters to the insurance company because that then becomes part of the claim file and there’s no way that they can wiggle out of it by saying, ‘Well, I don’t recall’ or ‘I don’t remember,’ which is a common answer when you depose claim people after a loss of that nature.”
Bob Scott, a partner with the Advocate Law Group, agreed with Peterson. “The insurance company is required by state insurance law to start a claim file on your case that contains all of the important documents relating to your claim and, as Dave suggests, all of the notes of all the phone conversations and everything should be in there as well. Many times they’re not, so the important thing for you to do is to start your own file and keep a log of what happens – time, date, and person – just as you would if you were memorializing any continuous course of events. Start that log with your notes.
The next thing to do is keep copies of all those letters that you send and all the letters they send you in an orderly fashion so that you keep on top of it. Make sure to look at that file once a week to make sure that it keeps moving. Time is your enemy, but a friend of the insurance company here. You’ve got to pay attention and force them to move the ball. The best thing to do is to say, ‘You need to give me the recommendations of those on your approved list that we could use as a contractor,’ and you’re just going to have to force them to do that.”
What about email? In today’s world, the majority of people use email. While it’s certainly faster than sending a letter, we wondered whether it made it easier for insurers to deny ever getting it or claiming that it was sent the wrong person. Scott was quick to respond, “My answer is ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease’, so if you have the capacity to send an email and send it also by regular mail, do both.”