Homeowner’s Insurance Claims Frequently Asked Questions

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What should I do after suffering a loss, theft or damage to my property?

How long will it take for my insurance company to respond?

What will my insurer ask me to do after I file a claim?

What are my insurance company’s duties?

How do I prove something was lost?

Who is going to clean up my property?

No one seems to know (or agree on) what caused the damage. How do I ensure my insurance company pays out?

Do I have to move out?

I’ve decided to move out while they fix my home. Who will pay for my accommodation?

What sorts of professionals will be on my property during the restoration process?

Do I have to use the contractor my insurer suggested?

What should I do after suffering a loss, theft or damage to my property?

Homeowner’s Insurance Claims Frequently Asked Questions San Francisco

Answer: If your home was severely damaged, it is important to that you take steps to safeguard yourself and your family, and to give your homeowner’s insurance claim the best chance at success. All homeowners should know the do’s and don’ts of disaster response. We’ve outlined a few key considerations below:

Do:

  • Notify emergency and rescue services if necessary;
  • Notify the police if a crime has been committed;
  • Call your bank or credit card provider if you have lost any cards;
  • Find a copy of your homeowner’s insurance policy, and review it to learn your specific duties as a claimant and to determine the extent of your coverage; and
  • Make a list of property that was damaged. Do not throw away any damaged property since it may be necessary to prove the value of your claim.

You should also call us immediately to schedule an expert evaluation of your property. Our full-service disaster response team can help you with the damage assessment, restoration planning and even filing a claim with your insurance company. Call 415-849-2120 to schedule a visit

Don’t:

  • Forget to report any injuries to yourself or others;
  • Leave the scene until the relevant authorities, such as police or emergency responders, have arrived; or
  • Throw away receipts, invoices or records of your expenses.

How long will it take for my insurance company to respond?

Answer: The California Insurance Code states that you are entitled to prompt and timely communications from your insurance company. Your insurer is required by law to respond to your requests for information within 15 days. If your insurer waits too long to respond, you may have grounds for an insurance bad faith claim.

All of your correspondence with your insurance company should be in writing so you have a paper trail to use as evidence in case your claim is disputed or denied.

What will my insurer ask me to do after I file a claim?

Answer: Your insurer will have a number of requests, and you should respond to them promptly and politely to protect your claim. You will have to provide a written notice of your claim as well as proof of identity, your coverage, the damage incurred and other information. Keep a detailed inventory of items that have been damaged or lost, and provide that record to your insurer when asked to do so.

If you are unsure of what to ask your insurer during a fire, water or disaster claim, visit our page that lists 9 Important Questions to Ask When Filing a Claim.

What are my insurance company’s duties?

Answer: Your insurance company is required by law to treat your claim fairly. If your insurer engages in certain misleading or unethical behaviors, you may have grounds for an insurance bad faith claim. Here are a few situations that may constitute insurance bad faith:

  • Denying your claim without a valid reason;
  • Making an unreasonable interpretation of your policy;
  • Interpreting your claim based on rules that were established after your policy went into effect; or
  • Waiting too long to respond to your claim.

How do I prove something was lost?

Answer: Photographic evidence of the damaged items is usually sufficient. In California, insurers may not demand a secondary form of proof such as a receipt.

Who is going to clean up my property?

Answer: The answer to this question depends on the specific language of your homeowner’s insurance policy. In certain circumstances, the removal of debris after a severe storm or natural disaster is the insurance company’s responsibility, but in most cases, the policyholder is responsible for cleanup. Municipal authorities may offer assistance if a significant area was affected.

Before you get to work, remember to take pictures of the debris from multiple angles. Be sure to take photos of damage to your swimming pool, perimeter fencing or paved driveway. These photos may be valuable evidence to support your claim.

Don’t take on a restoration job you’ve never tried before. If you need help repairing your property after a natural disaster, contact the pros at ARC for a prompt and thorough response. Call 415-849-2120 to schedule a visit.

No one seems to know (or agree on) what caused the damage. How do I ensure my insurance company pays out?

Answer: The cause of the damage will play a major role in whether your claim is approved or denied and which damage your insurer covers. It is important to remember that insurance companies have financial incentive to deny and undervalue claims, so they will look for any possible excuse to do so.

One common strategy is to contend that the cause of the damage is not a covered peril. For example, if your roof was damaged and water entered your home but you do not have flood insurance, your insurance company might only cover the roof damage and not the items inside your home that were destroyed by water.

If your insurance company has refused to cover your losses without a valid reason, contact a public adjuster for advice. You may have to contact an insurance attorney to enforce your rights.

Do I have to move out?

Answer: Only you can decide if your home is a liveable space after it has been damaged. But speak to the experts before you decide; superficial damage may be easy to clean up, but structural damage or damage to plumbing, electrical and other systems within your home could be hazardous.

I’ve decided to move out while they fix my home. Who will pay for my accommodation?

Answer: If your policy includes Additional Living Expenses coverage, or ALE, your insurer should either reimburse you for temporary accommodation or arrange housing for you and your family. If you do not have ALE coverage, you will have to play for accommodation out of your own pocket.

Beyond accommodation, ALE coverage may also include food and gas. You could ask for an advance on ALE payments to make your transition a little smoother.

What sorts of professionals will be on my property during the restoration process?

Answer: The people you see milling around your home after it has been damaged will depend on what will be required to restore your home to its pre-disaster condition. You may see one or more of the following professionals:

  • Estimators, who are responsible for creating a record of the incident and providing a report to your insurance company;
  • Contractors, who will determine if and how the damage can be repaired; and
  • Fire and flood repair specialists, who are experienced in restoring homes after large-scale catastrophic events.

Do I have to use the contractor my insurer suggested?

Answer: In most cases, you can choose your own contractor. In fact, it is often a good idea not to use the contractor that your insurance company recommends. If the contractor is on the insurance company’s payroll, then he or she may have financial incentive to use cheap materials and techniques to restore your home.

If you still have questions or if you would like to schedule a visit from a disaster recovery specialist from ARC, call 415-849-2120.

What should I do after suffering a loss, theft or damage to my property? How lon...