Insurance agents sometimes are treated like doctors: The assumption is made that what they say is the last word on the subject. In fact, insurance agents—like doctors—are only human and are wrong sometimes in the conclusions they reach. Homeowners should not take what an agent says as gospel and should persevere to make the most out of a home insurance claim.
This is not to suggest that agents are not forthcoming. Rather, the confusion and misinformation that sometimes ensues after a home claim is filed stems from the details of policies and the many variables of a situation. One home being damaged from strong winds is not just like another home being damaged by strong winds: the homes are of different ages and different construction, the homeowners of different attitudes about proper home maintenance, the policies written at different times and with different provisions.
So the differences of opinion that arise in settling claims are honest. Here are some ways to keep the confusion and misunderstanding to a minimum and make the most out of your home insurance claim:
1) Know what a policy actually covers. If there is no proviso in a policy for elephants walking through the patio and breaking up the tile, then there is nothing that can be done about it afterwards. If you live next to a circus, make sure you are covered against that eventuality. Generally speaking, a homeowner working with his agent ought to be current on what is and isn’t covered in a policy.
2) Make a list of what is in a house, photograph the property from every angle, time-stamp it all, and otherwise have a record (in a safe place) of what constitutes a property covered in a policy. Then, after the storm strikes or the arsonist does his nefarious deed, the condition of the house and its contents prior to the event are provable.
3) Don’t be afraid to challenge an insurance company’s first response. Something like 50 percent of challenges result in an increased settlement. So if a prepared homeowner has grounds to believe a settlement figure undervalues the situation, be persistent and let the records speak for themselves.
Insurance agents are a homeowner’s friend, but it is the homeowner who is chiefly responsible to make sure he gets the most out of his insurance claim.
by Morgan Moran