Filing an Insurance Claim
A few tips on how to file a claim after a natural disaster, fire or theft.
Read your insurance policy if you have it. If not, ask your insurance agent to send or bring a copy for you. Check your policy for specifics and document every action you take.
Keep Two Files
Track everything related to the claim in one of two files or notebooks: Admin or Expenses. Be sure to document dates and times for all entries.
- "Admin" file: For phone calls, notes and everything relating to the storm, fire or theft.
- "Expenses" file: To track all expenses — large and small. Note on each receipt what was purchased. You may be reimbursed under your policy or be able to claim them on your income tax return.
Expenses could include
- Building contractors
- Cell phone, pager or other method of communication
- Child care or other care providers
- Cleaning services (clothes and house)
- Clothing, personal items (medications, toiletries)
- Food (purchased from store and from restaurant)
- Hotels or other temporary living expenses
- Mailbox rental (if mail needs to be redirected or forwarded)
- Pet supplies, boarding costs or pet care providers (for onsite care)
- Security services (to prevent looting)
- Storage rental unit for possessions or vehicles
- Temporary business relocation costs (if business was home-based) including answering service and other expenses
WHN Tip: If you are using a credit card, designate only one card for post- event expenses, stapling all receipts to your monthly credit card statement for backup.
Contact your insurance agent or local company representative, or ask a friend or family member to do so, as soon as possible, even if you aren't at home.
WHN Tip: What's the Number?
Don't have your insurance agency's number? Call toll-free directory assistance at (800) 555-1212 or (877) 999-6442 for the toll-free number to your insurance company.
- Insurance agency name
- Agent name
- Phones (office and cell)
- Your Policy Number
- Additional tracking numbers
Document each conversation in your Admin notebook and include the following:
- Date and time of phone call/meeting
- Name of person you spoke with
- Items and tasks discussed
- Next steps for each item and task, deadline for completion and who is responsible for what.
- Forms or documents needed to support your claim. This could include a proof-of-loss form, as well as documents relating to your claim, such as medical and home-repair bills, bids and receipts. Often, they will ask for photos that show what was in your house before the damage.
WHN Tip: Request Photos
If you don't have any photos, remember, relatives and friends may have photos from holidays, birthdays, dinners and other events you hosted in your home. You'll see your home and belongings in the background!
- Specific information (if any) needed from the police or fire departments to process your claim.
- What expenses, if any, will be deducted from your total insurance claim amount (i.e. temporary housing, transportation, and living expenses may be subtracted from the final claim amount to be received).
- Arrangements for insurance company's damage assessment
Name of insurance representative who will come to you:
Representative's contact number (office and cell)
Date/time of visit
WHN Tip: Always Ask
Read our article called Property Damage; Questions for Your Agent for information about claim adjusters, filing claims, statement of loss, etc.
Be sure you keep copies of what you are sending to the insurance company — don't give away your last copy!
WHN Tip: Some losses may be tax-deductible. Keep receipts of what you spend for repairs or replacements, as well as those for living expenses, to help calculate your return. Contact your local IRS office for publication 547 (Tax Information on Disasters, Casualty Losses and Thefts). By filing Form 1045, (Application for Tentative Refund), you may be able to receive a quick refund.
WHN Tip: Options!
You do not have to file a claim or take a claim check right away. Consider other options such as hiring an independent adjuster who can act as an intermediary between you and the insurance company. Remember, it's up to you to decide when or when not to file your insurance claim. Read our article Working with a Claims Adjuster.
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