12 Secrets to Getting a Fair Settlement on Your Insurance Claim
Secret #1 Tell the Truth
Aside from being the right thing to do, telling the truth is the only way to establish your creditability. If you tell a lie to the adjuster, he will have a hard time believing anything you claim in the future. Policyholders who fail to tell the truth are not believed by adjusters, insurance companies and juries. Even if the truth hurts, telling the truth is better than compounding the problem with a lie.
Secret #2 Report the Loss in Writing
Insurance carriers have all kinds of deadlines to comply with in adjusting a claim. Almost all of these deadlines stem from the policyholder's first report of the loss. Therefore, you should always report the loss as soon as possible and in writing. Be sure to save a copy of your report and to send it to the carrier by certified mail, return receipt requested.
Secret #3 Make Valid Claims
In reporting your loss, be sure to make your claims for legitimate losses only. Do not exaggerate your claims or make claims for items that were not damaged or not caused by the event claimed. Doing so destroys your creditability with the carrier and adjuster.
Secret #4 Respond to the Adjuster's Requests Promptly
In adjusting a loss, the adjuster is required to make reasonable requests for documentation within a short time period after receiving notification of the loss. Thereafter, the policyholder must produce the documents requested or otherwise supply requested information. The adjustment process is effectively "on hold" until the insured supplies the requested documentation or gives a reasonable explanation of why he can not supply the documentation. For that reason, the insured should respond to the adjuster's requests promptly. As with notice of the loss, the response should be in writing and mailed certified mail, return receipt requested.
Secret #5 Treat the Adjuster With Courtesy and Respect
It is often said that you can get more from someone with honey rather than vinegar. This is true with insurance claims as well. Regardless of how tempting it may be to write poison pen letters or make sarcastic remarks, the harm these actions do to your claim is not worth the pleasure temporarily derived in making the comments. Furthermore, if your case progresses to the litigation stage, you really do not want a jury to see evidence of your discourteous behavior. The best thing to do is to write a letter to your adjuster calmly and courteously explaining how frustrating and confusing the claims process has been and why.
Secret #6 Document Your Loss
Often your claim will have many items. The better you document your loss the easier it will be to obtain payment for the loss. Supply your carrier with pictures, invoices, checks, credit card receipts, letters, emails, warranty information, police reports and any other types of information likely to document your ownership of the property damaged or the extent of damage.
Secret #7 Know Your Insurance Policy
Despite efforts to draft insurance policies in plain English, your policy is not written in this way. Your insurance policy is a difficult document to understand, but you must take the time to read and understand your coverage before your will know if you are receiving all that you are entitled to. The first step is to obtain a copy of all documents, endorsements, riders, and exclusions that compose the policy. These are listed on your declaration page. Then read the entire policy. Ask your adjuster to send you a letter explaining the reasons for any denial of coverage. If you still have questions, consult with an attorney for a more informed opinion on coverage.
Secret #8 Stand Your Ground
If the policy provides coverage for your loss, do not settle for anything less. Carriers become suspicious of policyholders that offer to settle for less than the true value of their claim. They think that these types of claims must be fraudulent.
Secret #9 Do Not Sign a Release or Waiver of Your Claim
You have the right to have your claim settled fairly and promptly. Often carriers try to condition the payment of a claim upon settlement of claims handling activities, especially with policyholders that are not represented by attorneys. Carriers deny, delay and underpay claims all of the time. When you are worn down, they may offer to pay you the value of your claim, if you will only release them for their misconduct and delay in handling your claim. Do not sign a release or waiver of this nature. Instead, stand up to this abuse and hire a lawyer if necessary to protect your rights and advise you on the best action to take in your case.
Secret #10 Keep in Regular Communication with Your Adjuster
Insurance adjusters have a tendency to ignore files where there is infrequent contact with the insured. Calendar a regular time period to follow up with your adjuster on the status your claim.
Secret #11 Keep a Diary
Insurance claims can extend for months on end in certain cases. You are going to forget the details of your claim. It is best to keep a diary of your claim by noting all communications with your adjuster, the content of conversations with the adjuster and the promises made for action. If your claim should progress to litigation, this information will be invaluable to your lawyer for evaluating potential liability and to you in recalling the facts of the claim.
Secret #12 Hire a Lawyer
If, after your carrier has had a reasonable time to review your documentation, it continues to delay, deny or underpay your claim, consider hiring an attorney. In these cases, the sooner you hire a lawyer the sooner you will reach resolution.