It is extremely important to know how to maximize your water damage insurance claim. Once your plumbing starts to leak or your ceiling starts to drip, you will be thankful that you purchased homeowner’s insurance. After a loss, you would think that since you have insurance, your claim would automatically be covered for all of your damage, but that assumption is not always correct.
Although most homeowners do eventually get their claims covered and paid, insurance companies are determined to keep payments on your claim low or non-existent. Below are some steps you can take to help get your claim paid.
1. Stop the Cause of the Damage
Once you realize that you have water damage, you should take all necessary steps to limit or control the amount of ongoing damage, if you can. If you don’t protect your property from further damage, your insurance company may decline some or all of your claim, stating that you should have taken action to protect your property.
The protective steps you can take depend largely on the kind of water damage you have. If you are experiencing a plumbing leak, turn off the water to the house. For roof leaks, put up a tarp to block rain temporarily.
Remember to also contact the appropriate professional (a plumber, restoration specialist, roofer, water remediation company) as soon as possible. These professionals may be better equipped to control the continuation of any damage, and they can also get started on repairs more quickly as well. That being said, you may want to hold off on signing any binding repair contracts until your claim has been fully processed by the insurance company, as you run the risk of the insurance company not approving the full amount of the repairs. If may be better to get an estimate first to show the water claim adjuster prior to committing to any extensive repairs.
It’s also important that you don’t immediately throw away any of the damaged items. Keep water-damaged items (and debris) in plastic bags or containers, and then show the damaged items to your water claim adjuster as physical proof.
2. Keep Evidence of the Damage
In order to assess your water claim, your insurance company will require you to present evidence or otherwise indicate what parts of your property was damaged. Fortunately, it’s easy to document the condition of your property with the camera on your smartphone. Take as many photos as possible of all the damage, and also try to include pictures of anything that you believe may be the cause of the damage.
If possible, you should also take videos to help document the damage. Videos are even more convincing than pictures and can provide a better overall view of the damage.
Besides photo and video evidence, you should also create a written list of all damaged property. This list should include a description of the items that were damaged, including each item’s value and projected replacement costs. If you’re unsure about the pricing, a restoration expert can provide you with insight on the value of a piece of furniture or specific item.
Have the professionals you’re working with assist you with the creation of quotes and reports explaining what happened and how much it will cost to fix the damage. Professional plumbers and roofers should be familiar with this procedure. Don’t forget to keep your receipts if you pay up-front for any quick repairs.
3. Report the Damage to the Insurance Company
Obviously, this is the most important step – you must immediately (or as soon as possible) contact your insurance company and notify them of the loss. For this step, all you have to do is call your insurance company and let them know you have had a loss. It is important to not delay contacting the insurance company, or you risk the insurance company denying your claim for not notifying them promptly. Even if you think you can make the repairs yourself, notifying your insurance company after a loss will save you a ton of headaches later. If you’re unsure whether your water damage claim will be covered by your policy, you should still make a claim with the insurance company. The insurance company will inform you if you’re not covered, and there’s no fine or penalty for asking.
You’ll probably be asked about your policy number, so make sure you have your policy with you before you make the call. If the insurance company asks you to fill out a “proof of loss” form, make sure to ask them to send you a copy of the form (preferably by email) or ask them where the form can be found online so you can print it out.
If you feel like the entire process is too complicated for you, or that you don’t have time for it, you can always contact an insurance dispute lawyer. They have lots of experience handling claims of all types and can be a great help in getting your claim paid timely and for the correct amount.
4. What Kind of Damage Is It, Flood or Water?
Flood damage and water damage are two completely different things to an insurance company. Floods are caused by nature and can affect more than one home (with exceptions for large rural properties). Whereas water damage can include anything from leaking HVAC equipment, roof damage, broken pipes, or a million other things. Flood damage is usually caused by “rising” water, as opposed to damage caused by other types of water intrusion.
Although the vast majority of homeowner’s insurance policies cover water damage, very few homeowner’s insurance policies will cover flood damage. Flood damage is usually covered under an entirely separate policy. Be sure to check with your insurance company as to the type of coverage you have on your policy. If you don’t have a separate flood policy, you should speak to your agent about purchasing this separate coverage.
5. Hire a Public Adjuster or Insurance Claim Lawyer
The process of handling a water claim insurance process can be slow and time-consuming. If you have a substantial or complicated loss, it may be better to hire a public adjuster or insurance claim lawyer to handle your water damage claim for you. Since public adjusters and insurance claim lawyers aren’t tied to the insurance company, they are unbiased and can focus only on finding the truth – whereas the insurance company’s adjuster may be solely focused on minimizing the insurance company’s payout.
6. Avoid Using Insurance Company Vendors
After assessing the water claim, many times the insurance company will try to convince you to use their vendors to repair your damage, as opposed to paying you for your claim. Your insurance company may state that they have their own team of roofers, plumbers, or restoration experts who can do the work for you. However, you must understand that these people get their work directly from the insurance company, and are therefore naturally beholden to the insurance company.
Since the interests of these vendors align with the insurance company, you may not always get an unbiased assessment from them. When seeking to repair your home, always make sure you choose a repair company that you can trust to be on your side, and not a company that will just do the insurance company’s bidding.
Has Your Home Insurance Company Denied or Undervalued Your Property Damage Claim in Florida?
If your insurance company is dragging their feet regarding your property damage claim you should speak with an experienced insurance claim lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Tampa, Florida law office directly at 800.451.6786 to schedule your free consultation. We help Florida residents just like you fight the big insurance companies who fail to abide by their own policies. Remember, we work on a contingent basis, meaning you don't pay us anything until we win your case.