If you’re a homeowner or business owner searching for how to maximize a water damage claim, you might be surprised at how a few simple tips can mean hundreds if not thousands of more dollars in your pocket after a burst pipe, fire, or another disaster. While a property owner should never do anything illegal or dishonest when it comes to working with an insurance company, you can maximize your claim and get far more than you expected if you remember a few simple suggestions.
How to maximize your water damage claim:
Before you accept a check from your insurance company or assume that you’ll be paying far more damage costs than you can manage after a flood or other disaster, check out these tips for maximizing your water damage claim. This will ensure you get the most amount of money in your pocket and can then rebuild or replace damaged items as quickly and easily as possible.
During and immediately after a fire, flood, plumbing disaster, or another such event at home or your commercial property, your safety and that of your family, pets, staff, visitors, and others should be your first priority. Even when trying to salvage items or document damage, never do anything that might put your safety in jeopardy and especially when working in a damp environment with live electricity nearby.
A property owner should also remember that water from burst plumbing pipes and outside floods can contain lots of harmful bacteria, germs, and other irritants, so always wear protective gear including rubber boots and gloves when working in flooded areas. Once you’ve ensured your safety, note a few tips for then maximizing your water damage claim.
One common mistake made by property owners after a flood, fire, or other such disaster is failing to document all damage to their property. Some people might assume that they simply fill out a claim report and list damaged items and that the insurance company will accept their statement without question. This isn’t always the case.
The more documentation you have to support your claim is one way how to maximize your water damage claim. This includes photographs, repair and replacement estimates, original purchase receipts or appraisals, and other such documentation. Even photographs you take with your smartphone can help bolster your claim.
As mentioned, you want to ensure you stay safe after a fire, flood, or other disasters, but snapping pictures of damaged property and personal items with your phone, making lists of items damaged, and even measuring areas of damage can help maximize your claim. If it’s safe to do so, get as much documentation and record of all damage as possible after a disaster on your property.
If you don’t include various items in your insurance claim after a flood or other disaster, you won’t get reimbursed for their repair or replacement cost. One common mistake made by property owners is to overlook various items damaged in a flood, perhaps thinking they’re so insignificant that they shouldn’t be included.
While you don’t need to list every single item individually on an insurance claim, you also don’t want to overlook clothing, personal care items (makeup, toiletries), books, kitchen tools, food items, and the like. Make a detailed list of these items and then ask your insurance agent or claims adjuster about including them on your claim paperwork, so you’re reimbursed properly.
Most homeowners won’t have receipts for items they’ve owned for some time such as everyday clothing and kitchen gadgets, but saving receipts for expenses incurred after a flood helps ensure a maximum payout. This includes receipts for having to eat out if your home’s kitchen needs repairs, transportation costs if your car was damaged in a flood, and so on.
Even if you’re not sure about an expense, save your receipt or other documentation. The worst that can happen is that your insurance carrier denies that expense, but you have less chance of getting something reimbursed if you don’t include it in your claim and can’t provide a receipt when required. Receipts also help keep you organized after a disaster so you’re less likely to forget to include a certain expense.
Not only are you typically required to report a disaster or damage to your insurance company within a certain timeframe but waiting to report an incident can give an agent leverage to argue against items on your claim. He or she might refuse the cost of mold damage cleanup, as an example, by arguing that you waited too long to schedule water damage repairs, allowing mold to grow and spread.
Remember that reporting damage to your insurance company isn’t the same as filing a claim. A quick phone call might be sufficient for reporting an incident, and you can follow up about needed paperwork when possible. However, ensure you make that call as quickly as possible after an incident, even if you call after business hours, so your report is on record with your insurance coverage provider.
After a disaster, you’ll need money to replace or repair damaged items, and to compensate for having to stay in a hotel, eat out, and the like. This is one reason many property owners are quick to accept the first offer from their insurance company, but this can be a costly mistake.
Insurance companies are typically aware of how eager their policyholders are to get cash in their pocket, which is why many initial settlement offers are quite low; some are even downright unfair. If your company’s first offer is sufficient then, of course, it’s your decision as to whether or not to take it, but never assume that you need to accept that offer or not get any compensation at all.
A public adjuster works for an insurance policyholder, negotiating with the insurance company for maximum benefits for a claim. While public adjusters aren’t necessarily needed for smaller claims, their work can make a tremendous difference in how much you’re paid after floods, fire, and other major catastrophes.
One reason public adjusters often secure more money for their clients is that they are experienced in filing claims paperwork, so nothing is overlooked. A public adjuster will also ensure everything covered in your policy is listed in a claim, including items you might overlook. Their work can make the difference between a small payout and maximum money in your pocket.
Most homeowner’s insurance covers water damage if it’s caused by something sudden and accidental, such as a burst plumbing pipe or water heater. Various coverage options are also offered within a policy, noting what is and is not covered in the event of water damage.
As every policy is different, it’s vital to note the coverage you’ve selected for your property and those coverage amounts. However, note some common options you might find in your homeowner's insurance policy and what those options often cover.
Homeowners should also note that standard policies do not cover outside flooding; you are typically required to buy flood insurance separate from your homeowners’ policy to get reimbursed if your local area should flood. If you live on a floodplain, near rivers or creeks that might swell and flood, or any other such hazard, consider investing in separate flood insurance as needed.
Your insurance policy is also not likely to pay out for damages due to neglect, DIY repairs, and the like. For example, if you’ve been told that your home’s plumbing leaks and you refuse to make repairs or upgrades, or make poor-quality repairs yourself, you probably won’t be reimbursed for damages if those pipes burst and flood your home.
Homeowners' insurance typically covers unexpected, sudden damage, as said. If wood rot, crumbling drywall, and other such damages are caused by a sudden flood such as from a burst pipe, your homeowners’ insurance will probably cover that damage.
However, if that rot, mold, or other damage is caused by a slow plumbing leak, foundation cracks, poor-quality insulation, or other such preventable factors, you are not likely to be reimbursed for repairs. An insurance policy assumes that a homeowner will take reasonable care of their home; damage caused by neglecting repairs and needed maintenance is typically not covered under a standard policy.
As wood rot and other such damage can develop over time, this is one reason to ensure you report an incident to your insurance carrier quickly. Neglecting to report a flood or water damage in a timely fashion might allow your carrier to claim that wood rot, mold, water stains, and other such damage are due to aging building materials, trapped humidity, and the like. While denying claims for these reasons doesn’t always happen, reporting an incident quickly helps reduce such risks.
As with wood rot and water damage, removing mold caused by flooding from a burst pipe or water used to extinguish a house fire might be covered by your carrier, if you make a claim quickly and properly. However, mold caused by plumbing leaks, water seeping in through foundation cracks, trapped humidity, and other such causes is not likely to be covered.
If you’re not sure what is or is not covered by your insurance policy, speak with your agent or a public adjuster. A public adjuster is especially helpful in examining policies and their coverage options and can explain your coverage in greater detail.
Because homeowner’s insurance covers flooding from sudden and unexpected disasters, it’s not likely to cover repairs needed due to hidden water damage, or damage caused by a long-term plumbing leak, steam from pipes or appliances, HVAC appliances leaking, and the like.
In some areas, you can purchase added coverage, either from your insurance carrier or an outside company, that offers coverage for hidden water damage. Check with your insurance agent if you’re concerned about hidden water damage in your home, and your insurance coverage.
One of the first things you want to do after a flood or other such damage in the home is calling your insurance agent and notify them of the incident. As said, this is different than filing a claim but will minimize the risk of your agent denying it by saying that property damage was caused by long-term neglect and other such issues.
If possible, review your policy or speak to your agent about what’s needed for a claim payout. Ask if you’re required to use the services of an outside water damage mitigation company or can handle repairs yourself, and how long you have to file the actual claim. You also want to start making a record of your losses and repair or replacement costs; this includes photos of the damaged items or property.
A public adjuster can file your initial claim if you’re feeling overwhelmed or confused about how to receive reimbursement for your losses. He or she can go through your paperwork, review the damages themselves, and then negotiate with your carrier for the most payout possible. Call them as soon as possible after an incident, so the time allowed to file a claim doesn’t lapse.
Melo Property Claims is happy to provide this information to our readers and hopefully, it helped answer the question of how to maximize a water damage claim. If you need help with an insurance claim, turn to our trusted North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida public adjusters. We handle every case with care and precision and work hard to secure you the maximum payout possible. For more information, give us a call today.