Recently experienced a disaster, and wondering what to expect from the property damage insurance claims process?
You’ve come to the right place.
It’s tricky trying to understand the different terms, conditions, and coverage limits that are in your insurance paperwork. And, even more so when dealing with disfigured structures or dwellings, and look for lost or destroyed belongings.
And you’re not alone.
But you can make your property damage insurance claims process seamless, straightforward, and, above all, successful.
Let’s find out how, shall we?
The Property Damage Insurance Claims Process
This section goes over when, how, and where you can file your claim.
Equally as important are the valuable homeowner insurance claims tips that we will lay out.
Let’s start with when we should file.
When to File a Property Damage Insurance Claim
The property damage claim time limit ranges from 6 to 12 months, depending on your insurer’s policies. Failing to act within this timeframe is among the top 10 reasons home insurance claims are denied.
You should contact your insurer right after the disaster takes place to ask them about their property damage claim time limit and the supporting documents that you need to present.
Getting a property report that shows the value of your losses can help. Your claim is more likely to be successful when it includes a report with information about your home’s worth, pictures of its exteriors and interiors, and similar details.
Now that you know when to file the claim, let’s talk about how.
How to File a Personal Property Damage Insurance Claim
Step 1: Assess the Damage
Start by identifying the damaged items and materials, such as furniture, personal items, walls, and ceilings. Then, write your assessments on a piece of paper and take pictures so that you can provide your insurance company with proof of the damages.
Above all, you only want to focus on items that were harmed by the specific incident that you’re filing the claim for. Otherwise, you may run into delays or have your entire claim get rejected.
Step 2: Report to Your Insurance Company
Let a home, property, and casualty insurance agent or company representative know about the damages as soon as possible. They will let you know what their property damage insurance claims process looks like and which areas are covered by your policy.
Your agent might also schedule you an appointment with the company’s adjuster. To clarify, the adjuster’s job is to assess the damages and determine how much the insurance would pay in repair and replacement costs.
Step 3: File a Police Report
This step is important if your property was damaged as a result of a crime (for example, theft and burglaries). In fact, in those instances, most insurance companies will require you to provide a police report with your claim.
Step 4: File the Property Insurance Claim
After you learn about what to include in your claim and get a police report (if needed), you can formally file your property damage claim.
There are two things that you can do to make this step as simple as possible.
First, before submitting your claim, go over your forms, documents, and proof of damages with an agent to confirm that all of your information is accurate, complete, and properly filed.
Second, as mentioned earlier, initiate this process as early as possible to ensure that you submit your paperwork within the property damage claim time limit.
Step 5: Work With the Insurance Adjuster
You must get ready for your appointment with the insurance adjuster in advance. Write a list of the damages that you suffered and be prepared to highlight them as you walk through the property alongside the adjuster.
Keep in mind that you have to be as clear and transparent as possible.
This is because adjusters are well-trained at identifying whether a loss was caused by a specific incident (such as a fire). Giving them false information, on the other hand, can lengthen your property damage insurance claims process timeline and potentially land you in legal trouble.
Step 6: Get Your Property Repaired
During your appointment, the adjuster estimates how much your claim could be worth, gives you an amount for the initial payment, and tells you if the insurance company will send you the funds or directly pay the contractors.
Once you get these details, you can start comparing different quotes and hire a contractor to work on the repairs. Occasionally, you may have to do this before the appointment with the adjuster, particularly when you experience severe damages that prevent you from living on the property or using it for your daily needs (making food in the kitchen, for instance).
Step 7: Finalize the Insurance Payout
The last step in the property damage insurance claims process is to collect your money.
Upon the completion of the repairs, you want to send the receipts and before/after pictures to the adjuster or the insurer’s appropriate department (in addition to any other documents that they asked for).
Next, the company will send you a final settlement offer that highlights the compensation amount that you’re entitled to.
If you already paid for the repairs, the insurance provider would reimburses you through a check or a bank transfer. However, some companies might directly pay the contractors.
Where to File a Property Damage Insurance Claim
At this point, you should know how to file your claim. Now it’s time to focus on where you could do so.
You have three options for filing a property damage insurance claim.
- 1Calling - You could call your insurer and do so on the phone.
- 2Submitting a Paper Form - Every company has a paper claim form that you can fill out. You may be able to find this document online, in the folder that contains the rest of your policy’s papers, or by visiting a local agent’s office.
- 3Going Online - Many insurance providers are now allowing their customers to complete digital claims forms online.
Whichever method you choose, you should always remember to get a tracking number for your claim and a receipt or confirmation document that shows that you filed it.
This is a crucial step that many people typically forget.
Homeowners Insurance Claims Tips That Nobody Tells You
Tip #1: Secure the Property and Premises
This tip serves two purposes: First of all, the property stays in the condition that it was in right after it got damaged. In turn, this strengthens your claim, allows the adjuster to come up with an accurate estimate, and prevents household members from moving items around or potentially causing further impairments that aren’t covered by your insurance.
The second purpose is that properties with damaged exteriors tend to attract burglars and thieves, especially when the home is clearly uninhabitable.
Tip #2: Seeking a Professional
In addition to your insurance provider’s assessment of the repairs, you want to get the input of other professionals. A public adjuster could weigh in on what the insurance company’s adjuster valued the claim at and offer you with an objective, non-biased assessment.
If you feel that your company gave you a low estimate, the public adjuster can deploy their experience and knowledge to negotiate with them for you throughout the property damage insurance claims process.
Tip #3: Don’t Repair Until You’ve Met With the Adjuster
The adjuster will tell you what is and isn’t covered by your policy.
For example, if your walls got damaged after a flood, you may be tempted to replace and upgrade them. However, you should only make temporary fixes that are needed to prevent further damages.
Otherwise, before paying the contractor, ask the adjuster whether the company will cover the upgrades.
Similarly, the adjuster can inform you if the insurance provider pays the contractor directly or reimburses you after you initially cover for the expenses.
Tip #4: Don’t Throw Anything Away Just Yet
Simply put, anything that was destroyed or harmed is evidence of your damages.
Therefore, you shouldn’t throw any belongings away before the adjuster examines them and estimates their value.
This is especially important if you plan to include these items in your personal property damage claim.
After all, when you don’t present any evidence that you owned these belongings or can’t prove that they were damaged, your claim might get delayed or rejected.
Tip #5: If You Don’t Think You’re Treated Fairly, You Can Do Something About It
When your insurance company wrongly processes your claim or gives you less than the amount that you’re entitled to, you can share your concerns with the adjuster and/or file a dispute with the company.
You should consider getting a property report from an independent third party that highlights its value and shows pictures of your home before the damages.
If this still doesn’t work, you could ask for help from your state’s public adjuster.
Tip #6: Remember, the Initial Payment Isn’t Final
Your insurer may make an initial payment while they investigate your personal property damage claim. This commonly happens when the home becomes uninhabitable after a fire, flood, natural disaster, or crime.
Yet, you must keep in mind that this is merely a preliminary amount.
That is to say that you need to continue working with the insurance company’s adjuster and collecting evidence of your damages until the claim is fully processed.
Tip #7: Your Insurance Company May Pay Your Contractor Directly
There are two types of property damage insurance claims: Ones that disburse a home insurance payout instead of repair-cost reimbursements and those that directly compensate the contractors who did the work on the damaged property.
If your insurer follows the latter approach, consider discussing the repair cost estimates with your contractor. Obtaining a property report from an independent third party will help you come up with a fair amount.
Tip #8: To Get Replacement Value for Your Items, You Must Actually Replace Them
In the same vein, there are also two types of property damage insurance claims as they relate compensation for ruined or harmed belongings.
First, some policies cover an item’s worth in cash (which take its age and depreciation into account).
Second, there are plans that remiunate you based on the item’s replacement value. These types of policies require you to either replace your belongings with new and similar ones or show the adjuster how much it would cost to do so.
Tip #9: Understand Your Exclusions, Values, and Limits
The worth of your personal property damage claim depends on your policy and the exclusions, values, and limits that it entails.
- 1Exclusions - Exclusions outline what is not covered by your plan, such as vehicles or specific items.
- 2Values - These are determined based on the price of your home and personal items that were estimated when you initially purchased the insurance policy.
- 3Limits - They highlight the maximum amount that you’re entitled to for each type of damage and repair.
Property Damage Insurance Claims Process FAQs
How Do Property Damage Insurance Claims Work?
When a disaster or crime damages your property and personal belongings, you may file a claim to get compensated for the repair costs and the value of the destroyed or disfigured items.
Once filed, the insurer inspects the property, assesses its condition, and offers you a settlement. The amount of money and damages reimbursements that you’re entitled to are contingent on the coverage that’s outlined in your policy.
How Do Insurance Companies Pay Out Claims?
There are two types of property damage insurance claims payments: fix and restore and payout. Under the first one, the company could directly pay a contractor to fix the destroyed surfaces and/or areas and restore the property to its previous condition. The second type entails a home insurance payout instead of repair-cost reimbursements.
To clarify, this means that your insurer will directly give you the funds (either via a check or bank transfer) after they estimate how much the damages are worth.
How is Property Damage Calculated?
It is based on the cost of rebuilding and/or replacing the harmed structures (rather than the property’s sale value, which accounts for the price of land), as well as the home’s age and condition. To get a fair settlement, you should learn how to find the history of a house and obtain a property report that shows when it was built, photographs of the internal and external structures, details about its room sizes, and more.
How Do You Claim Property Insurance?
Your first step in the property damage insurance claims process is to contact your insurance company, inform them about the disaster, and tell the agent that you want to file a claim.
Typically, you can do so online or through filling out a paper form. If you make your claim via phone, you’ll need to ensure that you get a claim or receipt number that you could track.
Should I File an Insurance Claim or Pay Out of Pocket?
You should initially file a claim so that you fully understand what your policy covers.
You don’t want to pay for certain repair costs and eventually discover that your insurance will not reimburse you. Additionally, the company’s adjuster is more likely to give you a fair and accurate assessment when they inspect the damages before you fix them.
You should only consider paying out of pocket when your home becomes uninhabitable.
What Does Property Damage Liability Cover?
During a disaster, a friend, relative, or colleague may get injured or suffer damages on your property. After that, if they decide to sue you, property damage liability insurance will cover your legal costs.
This ranges from the lawyer’s fees to anything that you’re obligated to pay if the court rules against you.
Most insurers let you choose the amount of property damage liability coverage that you want.
What are the Types of Property Damage Insurance Claims?
There are various types of property damage insurance claims. The more common one pertains to repairing the dwellings, surfaces, and structures of your property. The not so common type has to do with getting reimbursed for damages to your personal belongings, such as electronics, furniture, and jewelry. If you have an auto and property insurance bundle, you can claim the costs of repairing your car and replacing any damaged items that were in it.
Can You Get a Home Insurance Payout Instead of Repair-Cost Reimbursements?
This depends on your coverage and the insurer’s policies. However, there are some pros and cons to each type of payment. When the company pays you directly, you can compare contractors’ quotes and choose the one that you prefer. Meanwhile, when your insurer directly reimburses the contractor, they are more likely to negotiate a better price and avoid being talked into paying for additional services that aren’t included in your coverage.
The Property Damage Insurance Claims Process Summarized
This comprehensive guide should equip you with the tools that you need to file a personal property damage claim that accurately reflects your losses.
All you have to do is follow the steps that we outlined and take our unique homeowners insurance claims tips into account.
This allows you to understand what your policy’s terms, conditions, and coverage limits are. After that, you can help the adjuster look past disfigured structures, damaged dwellings, and destroyed items to see the true value of what you lost.
By doing so, you increase the likelihood of getting the settlement amount that you’re entitled to.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s get going!