Whether it is raining and cold, sunny and warm, morning or night, when you suffer a residential loss, the first thing you should do is contact your insurance agent. Your insurance agent will guide you through the steps required to process your claim. If you have a major loss and need assistance immediately most if not all insurance companies have 24 hours emergency assistance. You should always have your important information, including contact numbers, available 24/7.
If you had the foresight to perform a home inventory prior to the insured event, congratulations! – you will be significantly better-off. That said, even if you did not perform a home inventory prior to the incident, you can still maximize your insurance claim settlement if you can provide your insurance company with the following:
- Picture of the claimed items taken in your home prior to the damage. The picture should be date stamped or stored in a home inventory program that can provide evidence when the picture was taken. The picture should be good enough to clearly show the condition of the item.
- Proof of Purchase might be a receipt, a conformation email from an online store such as Amazon or a credit card bill. The proof of purchase will provide three important facts: (1) How much you paid for the item; (2) the date you bought the item; and (3) details about the item such as model number for electronic items.
If you don’t have one of the two items above, proving what you lost will be a lot harder. In the case of a total loss, the insurance company knows that there are many common household items such as a couch, a bed, a TV, a coffee table, dinner table and they can provide you with a list of common items. You most likely won’t remember everything you own. A very experienced insurance adjuster once told me, “People don’t remember what they owned and remember things they didn’t.”
If your insurance claim is below what the insurance company would classify as a standard loss, your claim will likely be settled quickly. However, if your claim is above the expected standard and you can’t prove what you own, expect to receive less than your claim or what you would have received had you been able to prove what you owned.
Good documentation is the foundation for a successful insurance claim settlement. At a minimum, it is good practice for you to take pictures of what you own and keep receipts. For more expensive items, you should record the model number and serial number. I recommend using AssetWatch’s structured and automated system to protect your assets and organize your important information. Even if you choose not to use AssetWatch, please take the time to take pictures of the more expensive items you own and send them to a friend or a family member or create a Google email account as this limited documentation is better than nothing as long as you can access the pictures and information when you need it.