Storms, natural disasters, crime, and other unexpected events can damage your home. Navigating all the insurance paperwork in the wake of such an event can be complicated and is often required in response to unforeseen circumstances. Filing a home insurance claim can help pay for repairs, cover additional living costs, or replace damaged property. 

Having a firm grasp of filing a home insurance claim will help you get the most out of your coverage. It’s essential to consider your deductible before filing a claim, as it may result in a rate increase. This is true even if you only file a small claim.


1. Best Practices When Filing a Home Insurance Claim

Falling tree after a hard storm on a damaged house

Time is of the essence when you need to file a claim, and you should have all necessary documents, photos, receipts, and more ready and organized before you begin the process. 

Some insurance companies allow you to file a claim online, which can help accelerate the process and get your settlement offer sooner. If your home is damaged in a storm, there will likely be others who are also filing claims, and you should begin the process immediately. 

Another consideration when filing your claim is that delays in filing can raise red flags and cause increased scrutiny. In some cases, you will have to provide an explanation for delaying your filing.


2. Documenting Damage Before You File a Claim 

This is one of the most important aspects of filing a successful claim. Insurance providers need proof before they can begin the process of getting your file processed and approved. Be sure to photograph any temporary repairs, damage to your home, property damage, or other covered items. 

Here are some essential tips to ensure you have the proper documentation: 

  •     Screenshot relevant email correspondence and save it as a non-editable file like a PDF
  •     Keep all receipts related to additional living expenses
  •     Have all contractors provide line-item invoices for materials, labor, and variable costs
  •     Avoid any cash payments, especially for professional repairs by contractors
  •     Prepare an inventory of valuable items with receipts or digital proof of purchase and keep it maintained as new items are purchased

Providers may require temporary repairs to prevent further damage, and this should be communicated in writing before the repair is completed. If a crime was committed, be sure to have a police report filed immediately. This is also true if anyone suffers an injury on your property.


3. Understanding Your Home Insurance Policy

Holes in exterior siding home from damage by a hail storm

Many homeowners are unfamiliar with their policy and haven’t considered what they need to do in the event of damage. If you have questions or don’t understand your policy’s coverage, reach out to your insurance agent to go over your policy directly. 

By doing this before property damage occurs, homeowners can forecast what their policy will and won’t cover and decide whether or not to file a claim.


4. Speak Directly to Your Agent or Representative 

One of the best ways to confirm coverage and get started on the claim process is to call your insurance agent directly. They will help you verify your coverage, explain the timeline for filing a claim, explain your deductible, and determine a settlement plan. 

After you’ve spoken with your agent, they will likely dispatch an insurance adjuster to inspect the damage. An insurance adjuster’s role is to consider your claim, check the damage and evidence, and estimate how much the company should expect to put forward in a settlement offer. 

When insurance providers evaluate a client for coverage, they consider any claims made in the past seven years to determine the amount of coverage. Adjusters often follow strict guidelines and checklists before completing their estimates. A lack of proper documentation, receipts, or other proof can result in lower settlement offers and rate increases. 

By working directly with your agent, you can get ahead of any unforeseen questions or issues before they slow down the claim process. This is one of the primary benefits of working with a local provider who understands your needs and situation.


5. Do Home Insurance Policies Cover Living Expenses?

Roofing inspection after a storm

Some policies will cover unexpected living expenses if your home becomes uninhabitable due to repairs or other environmental damage like mold. This is called loss of use coverage and may include meals, hotels, travel expenses, and additional unforeseen costs caused by property damage. 

Loss of use coverage typically does not include:

  •     Insect or pest infestation
  •     Flood damage
  •     Repairs

Be sure you understand what your policy covers before submitting living expense receipts. Most policies outline the specific coverage and will not pay for anything that does not strictly adhere to these guidelines. If you plan to file for loss of use coverage, start tracking expenses immediately. 

Home insurance damage claims never happen at a good time. 

With some preparation, an understanding of your policy’s coverage, and thorough documentation, homeowners can expedite the process. Open communication with a local insurance agent can help outline coverage and determine whether filing a claim is the right move. 

It may not make sense to file small claims on policies with a high deductible, as this can result in an increased rate. Work with your insurance company to ensure your policy provides enough coverage to protect your property. 

As a preferred contractor for several local insurance companies, Johnson Exteriors can help process your claim more quickly. We specialize in storm damage claims and handle all insurance billing, so you don’t have to. Contact our dedicated team at 763-355-4458 to schedule an inspection.