In the aftermath of the devastation in Georgia this weekend (with an estimated $150 million in damage), Russ Longcore, author of Insurance Claim Secrets, offered up these 10 tips for anyone filing an insurance claim.

  1. Slow down. Don’t accept a fast payment from your insurance adjuster if it means you close your file. Insurance companies love to make fast payments. But if you accept a payment before you know all your damages, you’ll be giving your insurance company a big discount. Worst, you won’t be able to get the repairs done for the money.

  2. Notify the Insurance Company. Make sure you notify the insurance company the way the policy tells you to. You can put your claim in jeopardy if you don’t do it right.

  3. Mitigate your damages. That’s a fancy term for protecting your property from further damage. Put a tarp over the roof…plastic over a broken window…that kind of protection. The expenses you’ll incur are covered by your policy.

  4. Take LOTS of photos. Don’t rely on the adjuster…it’s YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to prove your claim. The adjuster might not get to you for days. You may need to make temporary repairs to get your business back working, or your home livable. Cleanup might mean you’re throwing away stuff you should get paid for. Make sure you’ve made a photo record of your loss.

  5. Start a document file. Keep everything related to this claim in one place, like a box. Keep all receipts, claim documents, photos, EVERYTHING in that box.

  6. Open a checking account just for handling the money for the repairs. This keeps you from mingling the funds with your normal household or business funds. It also makes record keeping easier.

  7. Don’t just blindly accept the adjuster that the insurance company sends to your home or business. Interview the adjuster to find out if they are trained to handle your loss. If your adjuster has two years or less experience, call his supervisor and DEMAND another adjuster.

  8. If you need money to begin demolition of cleanup, ask the adjuster for an advance. If you need funds for Business Income or Additional Living Expenses, ask the adjuster for an advance. It’s done all the time, but many times the insurance company won’t volunteer it.

  9. Record EVERY conversation you have with your adjuster. Keep a diary of adjusting activity. Don’t EVER trust an adjuster to work on your behalf. His paycheck is paid by the insurance company. He’s on THEIR SIDE.

  10. Call a Public Insurance Adjuster (PA) to evaluate your claim. Public Adjusters are licensed through the State Department of Insurance to represent policyholders, not represent the insurance company. Hiring a PA will usually result in you getting more money in your settlement than if you just accept the offer from the insurance company.

Think about this… you hire doctors when you’re sick. You hire attorneys when you have legal issues. You hire accountants to handle your books or file your taxes. So, in this case, when you do not know the insurance claims process, why would you hesitate to hire a claims professional to represent you in the submission of your claim? At the very least, you should consult a PA to find out if it makes economic sense for you to hire a PA. Your claim might not be big enough to warrant a PA, but you won’t know unless you ask one. By the way, don’t ask your insurance company adjuster if you need a PA. What would you expect them to say?

Russell D. Longcore
Author of
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Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year Award 2008

March 16, 2008.