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How to deal with insurance claims

August 13, 2014

When Americans take out an insurance policy on their car or home, they do so as a preemptive measure. Nobody hopes their property will be damaged, but accidents happen, which is why taking out an insurance policy can be crucial to keeping finances safeguarded from any unforeseen harm.

But when your property is damaged and a claim needs to be made, it can be a stickier situation than you might have realized. According to Bob Freitag, president of a public adjuster firm in North Carolina, some homeowners have experienced major headaches when trying to file a claim.

Stay persistent and take photos when filing an insurance claim.
"We see time and time again that insurance companies bring in their approved vendors, who promise to clean everything rather than replace items,” Freitag told U.S. News & World Report. “This is especially true with fire damage claims.”

Freitag said cleaning a home that experienced a fire instead of replacing certain items saves the insurance company money, but it often leaves the insured home in a less than desirable state. Filing a claim because of hail damage can be just as frustrating.

“Insurers aren't wanting to pay for all the hail damage to roofs that we have experienced more of in the last few years,” he said. “They want to patch roofs or simply say that there isn't enough damage to warrant replacing it.”

But where does that leave you if your possessions have recently experienced an unfortunate event?

Here are a few tips to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to filing an auto or home insurance claim:

Become an amateur photographer or videographer

Let's say a severe windstorm came romping through your town, knocking down street signs and uplifting rooted trees. If a sign or tree slams through the front windshield of your car, you should bust out your cellphone or camera to record the damage. U.S. News reported you should act like a detective at a crime scene, taking photos from multiple angles in order to provide a visible story to your insurer.

Consumer Reports added that once you've taken photos of the incident, you should try to prevent any further damage to your home or automobile. If you have a hole in your roof, cover the hole with a tarp and move any undamaged items to a safe place to prevent additional losses. However, don't try to repair anything and don't get rid of ruined property until an adjuster has arrived and taken a look at everything.

Stay on top of your documents

"When an insurance company first arrives on the scene of a claim, they give policyholders a handful of forms and tell them to fill out the forms and send them back in,” Freitag said. “The policyholders must prove their damages to the insurance company. If they fail to document the damages in the correct manner, the insurance company doesn't have to pay for them.”

It might seem like an insurance company is trying to get you to jump through hoops with all of the documents they require, but this is because insurers take extra steps to avoid being duped by a fraudulent claim.

Americans interested in landing a new insurance policy should consider taking out a policy through SelectQuote Auto & Home. SelectQuote compares rates and plans from 12 of the nation's top insurance companies, giving you the ability to land the policy that caters to your needs.

Fight for your right

If you experience a problem when filing a claim with your current insurer, don't be afraid to battle for what's due to you. Consumer Reports revealed that half of the 10,700 homeowners who filed claims related to damage from Hurricane Katrina had problems with their claim.

Stick with it and stay resilient, and it should be resolved.