Trying to win an insurance claim can seem like a game, but consumers who play that game right and have the patience and persistence to make it through to the final buzzer will have a much better chance at success. Moreover, since success in this case comes in the form of dollars and cents, paying heed to the following tips is probably a good idea.
Know thy policy
First and foremost, before filing a claim, consumers should make sure to know their policy. Read it through, back to front, cover to cover, in order to understand what’s covered, what’s specifically excluded and what the deductibles are.
Need to file a claim but haven’t done so yet? Do so as quickly as possible, and certainly before any deadlines rule out the possibility.
Be a record keeper
Keep a record of every step of the process, from the incident itself to the claim. It takes a few extra minutes now, but it will almost certainly save time and energy later. This includes keeping copies of all correspondence, says Ralph T. Hudgens, Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner of the state of Georgia.
“Write down information about your telephone and in-person contacts, including the date, name and title of the person you spoke with and what was said,” explains Hudgens. “Also, keep a record of your time and expenses.”
Determine the costs
In the case of homeowner’s insurance, before meeting with an adjuster the consumer should try to determine the costs of repairs. If temporary repairs have already been done, provide that information to the adjuster and later ask the adjuster for an itemized explanation of the claim settlement offer.
Temporary repairs only
“While temporary repairs are a good idea, don’t make permanent repairs. An insurance company may deny a claim if you make permanent repairs before the damage is inspected,” states Hudgens. “If possible, take photographs or video of the damage before making temporary repairs.”
In an article published in the days following Hurricane Sandy, CNNMoney.com seems to advise against even temporary repairs, instead suggesting that homeowners should create an inventory of all their belongings and avoid moving or repairing damaged property “until the adjuster has had a chance to look at it first.”
Keep an eye on health providers
When it comes to accident or health claims, Hudgens recommends asking physicians to provide the insurance company with details about treatment, medical conditions and prognosis.
“If you suspect a provider is overcharging, ask the insurance company to audit the bill and verify whether the provider used the proper billing procedure,” he states.
Patience can be a virtue when it comes to insurance claims, including with the initial settlement offer.
“If the first offer made by an insurance company does not meet your expectations, be prepared to negotiate a fair settlement,” Hudgens advises. “If you have any questions regarding the fairness of your settlement, seek professional advice.”
In the event of a denial…
When a claim is denied, Hudgens recommends that consumers “ask the company for the specific language in the policy that is in question” and “make sure you obtain a written letter explaining the reason for the denial and the specific policy language under which the claim is being denied.”
Of course, policyholders can continue to play the game by filing an appeal.
“If your appeal isn’t granted, contact your state insurance department, which may intervene on your behalf. Most will at least contact the company…” says CNNMoney.com.