Many people never file an automobile insurance or other insurace claim, and they are grateful for it. Should the task become necessary, it can be daunting, and it is normal to feel confused and nervous. Here are some steps that will help move your claim along.
1. Check your policy
Examine your insurance policy, and make sure you have coverage for your damage. Next, identify your policy number, and the amount of your deductible, if there is one. Also, your policy will contain instructions about how to report your claim. Some companies provide a toll free number. Others want you to call your agent. If you have doubts or confusion about anything, contact your agent and ask for assistance.
2. Be prepared
When you call about your claim, have a list at hand that includes the following:
– Your name and address as it appears on your policy
– Your policy number
– Essential phone numbers for you and the best times for claims people to reach you
– The date of the accident or incident
– A brief description of what happened
– A brief description of your damage
Most calls will go to a claims call center where a customer support representative will take your report. In most cases, this person will not handle your claim. Instead, (s)he will send your claim to a department which will assign an adjuster. The adjuster then will take charge. As a rule, a representative needs only a little information to start your claim, so keep your initial descriptions short and simple. (For example: “A pie blew up in my oven. The kitchen floor and adjoining walls are scorched.” or “I backed into a fire hydrant and dented my rear bumper.”)
Limiting your descriptions to a few sentences and jotting them down in advance will save time, and you will have a written record of what you said. If the claim representative needs more information, (s)he will ask. Otherwise, save the details for your adjuster.
3. Avoid interruptions and distractions
Trying to report a claim while coping with kids, your barking dog, a deliveryman at the door, and incoming calls on your call waiting will only frustrate you and your claims representative. Your claim is an important matter, and the information you give needs to be correct. Find a quiet place where you can call in peace.
4. Allow adequate time
Typically, an initial claims report requires five to ten minutes. You will be asked a series
of questions, and, typically, the claims representative will repeat your answers back to make sure they are correct. It is best not to rush.
Also, if you hate being on hold, it’s a good idea to avoid calling at 8 AM or close to 5 PM. These are peak hours for claims representatives, and probably you will have to wait.
5. Keep a pencil and paper handy
You will get a claim number. Your claim number is the key to handling your claim successfully. It’s boring to repeat the darn thing over and over, but that is how claims personnel, especially adjusters, track your case.
Yes, claim representatives can use your name to look up your claim. Yes, they can do a policy number search. But those are extra steps that slow things down for you. For the quickest and best service, always have your claim number ready.
6. Ask for your adjuster’s name and phone number
Write down this information, too. Read it back to the person who takes your claim so you know it is correct. Your adjuster is the person in charge of your claim. Contacting your adjuster directly will save you time and trouble.
It’s a good idea to keep your claim number and adjuster information where you can find them easily. You could even write down the information on a card or slip of paper to keep in your wallet or purse. That way whenever you want to call about your claim, you’ll be ready.
7. Ask About the Claims Process
Laws can vary from state to state, and each insurance company has a distinct claims process that varies a bit. By rights, the person who takes your initial report should acquaint you with the your company’s claims process and explain to you what will happen next. However…
If the representative doesn’t volunteer such information, ask. “What happens now?” and “What can I expect?” are good questions, and you have every right to a quick, honest response. Beware, however, if a representative makes promises. “An adjuster will call you back in just a few minutes.” Or “Someone will come and look at your damage this afternoon.” Maybe that’s true. But in most cases, it’s better to wait and see.
8. Check for loss of use
Can you safely drive your car? Can you safely live in your house? If your damage is too serious, check your policy for “loss of use.” Under severe circumstances, you may need alternate transportation or other living quarters while repairs are underway. If you have loss of use coverage, your claims adjuster will explain how you can get this kind of help and the amount of reimbursement your company will give you.
9. In times of catastrophe
All of us are shaken when a disaster strikes. Please bear in mind, however, that a wide spread crisis, such as Hurricane Katrina, will swamp your insurance company. It may take much longer than you wish to get the help you need. In those times, you will need patience and faith. If possible, do what you can avoid additional damage. For example, if you have a hole in your roof, try to cover it with something such as a tarp to keep rain and wind out. Take pictures. Call for repair estimates. Doing something make will you feel better. Plus, the information you gather may help your adjuster.
Following these tips can help you greatly with your claim. Your ultimate resource, of course, is your insurance agent. If you are uncertain about your coverage, or if you have problems with a claim, always contact your agent.