Water damage is an inescapable problem for homeowners because it can happen in so many difficult to prevent ways. A sudden storm might cause rain water to leak through a crack in your foundation that you didn’t know was there, or a pipe can burst behind your wall and cause gallons of water to spill into your home. Once excess water or moisture has entered your home, it will spread further and deeper by getting absorbed into the porous building materials of your walls and flooring. Most cases of water damage are extensive enough to require filing an insurance claim.
Filing an insurance claim for water damage can be a complicated process. There are several factors that can affect whether the water damage is covered, and how much of it your insurance policy will cover. If you come home to a flooded basement or burst pipe, the first thing on your mind will be limiting as much damage as possible. However, you must be careful about what you do in the immediate aftermath because you might do something that will allow your insurance adjuster to deny coverage. The following is a complete guide on how to file an insurance claim for water damage from your first actions after the disaster, all the way through the insurance claim process.
Responding to Water Damage
It is natural to feel panicked if you find a burst pipe, serious leak, or standing water in your home. These situations require immediate action, but it is important to take the right actions to help ensure that your insurance provider will cover the damage. As soon as you notice significant water damage in your home, make sure you take the following actions:
- Review Your Insurance Policy
It is very important to understand exactly how your homeowner’s insurance policy covers water damage. By reviewing your policy, you can determine what type of water damage is covered, and find important information such as deductibles, limitations and exclusions. Most basic homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover the following:
- Sewage backups
- Water damage from the HVAC system
- Restoration of damaged personal items and furnishings
- Living expenses if you are forced to temporarily leave your home
If you are not already familiar with what type of water damage your insurance policy covers, review it after the disaster, but before you talk to your insurance adjuster. It helps to be familiar with your homeowner’s insurance policy before a disaster happens so you can react quicker.
- Contact Your Insurance Provider
Once you have reviewed your policy, you need to contact your insurance provider. Make sure you know your policy number and be ready to describe the damage in as much detail as possible. If your insurance policy does not cover flooding, try to avoid saying the word “flood” as you describe the damage. The insurance representative will then tell you the next steps to take in the insurance claim process. It is very important to keep a record of all communications between you and your insurance provider including phone calls, notifications, and other documents.
- Thoroughly Document the Damage
In order to get your water damage insurance claim approved, you need evidence of the damage. Therefore, you must document all of the damage before you do anything to change the scene as you found it.
- Take photos and video to capture the extent of the damage.
- Save damaged personal items so the insurance adjuster can see them. Do not throw away any damaged objects or materials.
- List all of your damaged items in a detailed inventory that includes the age, condition, value, and replacement cost of each item.
- Do not throw away broken parts or malfunctioning equipment that contributed to the damage.
- Take note of any possible involvement by others that may have contributed to the damage. Write down the details and contact information of these individuals and how they were involved.
Remember, you should not alter the scene in any way until you either thoroughly document the damage, or have a claims adjuster review the damage. This means no permanent repairs or disposal of damaged items.
- Limit the Damage
After you have completely documented the damage, you can take steps to prevent the damage from getting worse. Non-permanent, emergency repairs will not affect your insurance claim because these actions must be taken to avoid additional damage that may not be covered after you have made the initial claim. You can call a restoration company like ServiceMaster Kwik Restore to remove standing water and excess moisture, provide board ups and tarping if necessary, and take other measures to effectively limit the damage without making permanent repairs. Keep a record of all of these emergency repairs and do not move forward with reconstruction or restoration work until you have talked to the insurance adjuster.
- File the Claim
Now that you have reviewed your insurance policy, documented the damage, and taken care of emergency repairs, it is time to officially file the insurance claim. Make sure your written claim includes the date and location of the damage, the inventory of damaged items, receipts for emergency repairs, and estimates for the restoration work. Insurance companies generally take up to 15 days to send an insurance adjuster to your property to inspect the damage.
Insurance Claim Process
If your insurance provider does not send an adjuster within 15 days of your claim, contact them again to ensure an adjuster is being sent. It is important for the claim process to move quickly to save time and money on the restoration. Once the adjuster completes the inspection, the insurance company will notify you in writing if they will accept your claim and cover the damage. They will then provide you with a check that represents the estimated cost of the damage, minus your deductible and depreciation. It is also possible to work out a situation in which your insurance provider will work with the restoration company to come up with an estimate and pay for the damage.
If you are not happy with the estimate provided by your insurance company, or your settlement gets rejected, you can demand a written explanation. You can also hire a public adjuster to help settle the claim as they can provide a more objective estimate because they do not work for your insurance provider. If you still have difficulty reaching an agreement with your insurance provider, you can file a written complaint with the local department of insurance.
Calling for Water Damage Restoration
In many cases, insurance companies recommend that you contact their preferred restoration companies to restore the damage. However, it is within your legal right to choose the disaster restoration company that you would prefer. At ServiceMaster Kwik Restore, we work with many local insurance companies to settle your claims and we provide thorough and effective water damage restoration services using the best equipment and methods of the industry. Water damage is an emergency issue in your home and starting the insurance claim process quickly will help limit the damage to save you time and money on the restoration.
If you have water or flood damage in your home in Lake or McHenry county, give us a call any time at (888) 504-6053.