Reading this article will teach you how to prove damages in your insurance claim.
Let's face it, having an insurance claim involving your home is no fun. Depending on the cause of loss, your life at home could literally be turned upside down. The worst case scenario has taken place. You have had a fire. Your home has been flooded by a broken pipe. The roof is leaking. Someone broke in and took your stuff. Luckily you have insurance. Now what?
Document the Date and Cause of Loss
The first step for proving your damages is to protect your insurance claim from a needless denial. That means, call your insurance company immediately when you discover the damages. Do everything you can to document and record the date and time you discovered the damages. Take photos and video of the damages and if possible, what caused them (a leak, a storm, a flood, a broken vandalized door). If a theft occurs or vandalism, call the police and obtain a police report.
Document the Actual Damages
When documenting the date and the cause of the damages, take photos or video of the damages themselves. Photograph all damaged items in the home including your personal property. In the picture or video, zoom in and show exactly how the property is damaged (wet, burned, broken, etc.). If the property was stolen, take a picture of the empty spot where it was. Document through photographs and video as soon as possible so you can show how the scene was exactly at the moment you suffered your loss.
Create an Inventory for Personal Property
The next step is to create an inventory of your damaged personal property. Make a list of each item damaged, where it was in your home when you purchased it, and how much you paid for the item. After creating your inventory, search through your records to obtain receipts for each item or other evidence that could show its purchase price or value. If you cannot find receipts, you may have to resort to looking at old bank or credit card statements. All of this evidence will go a long way to establishing your damages.
Obtain Repair Estimates for Damages to the Home
If your home itself has been damaged, you will need to obtain repair estimates from qualified and licensed professionals to document what need to be fixed and how much that will cost. Always use licensed general contractors, electricians, plumbers or roofers. A repair estimate from a handyman, neighbor or friend will not cut it. The estimate must be in writing and should itemize everything that needs to be done line by line. Tell them you want them to document all the damages caused by your loss and to detail exactly what must be done to repair everything so your home is restored back to its condition prior to the loss.
A licensed public adjuster can also help you with preparing a repair estimate. A public adjuster will use his or her knowledge of the insurance industry to include items in your estimate that must be done to bring your home back to its pre-loss condition. A general contractor may miss those type of repairs and only focus on fixing the most obvious. A public adjuster will, however, charge you a fee for the services so you need to decide which route makes the most sense for you.
Be Prepared and Proactive
The best assurance for success is preparation. The same applies to your insurance claim. Properly documenting what you have now before there is an insurance claim will go a long way to helping you prove your damages. Always keep your receipts and proof of purchase in a safe place for future reference. When you have the time, take photos or video of your home, personal property and most prized possessions. There is nothing more powerful than a before and after photo that can show what you have and what it looked like prior to being damaged during an insurance claim.
Damage and Valuation Disputes
Do not be surprised if your insurance company does not agree with your claim for damages and the amount. This happens all the time. In those cases where you cannot agree or compromise, your only alternative may be a lawsuit. Do not accept less than what you are entitled.
About the Author: Patrick Russell, Esq., has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1994 and is an experienced Florida insurance lawyer. Patrick started his insurance law practice more than twenty years ago when he represented homeowners and business owners for their Hurricane Andrew insurance claims. The purpose of this article is educational and not for the solicitation of legal services. The goal is to avoid the mistakes learned from the past, specifically those from previous windstorms. Knowledge is power. Information is free. Mistakes are costly. If you would like more tips on how to process your Florida insurance claim, Patrick can be reached at (305) 608-2977 or here.