Any homeowner who’s filed a storm damage claim with their insurance provider knows what a frustrating experience it can be.
Many claims are flat out denied or covered at a fraction of what you’re expecting.
If that happens to you, the first thing you should do is ask why. Either your insurer will be able to point out exactly which language in your policy backs up their conclusion, or you might wind up finding something they missed.
This is crucial for one reason alone, says J. Robert Hunter, Director of Insurance for the Consumer Federation of America
: “Once the insurance company tells you the reasons for its action, it cannot produce new reasons for denying payment or making a low offer at a later time. You have locked them in — a major advantage for the consumer.”
All sorts of things can go wrong with claims. You might not realise you’ve agreed to pay a deductible, which could account for a missing chunk of your claim. Your insurer also might have slipped in new or ambiguous policy limitations you weren’t aware of, which could be cause to call in help from an attorney.
Whatever the case, if you find reason to fight your reward, here are some simple steps from the CFA on what to do next:
• Complain to senior staff in the insurance company. Use the records you have kept since the claim process began. The more serious the insurance company sees that you are in documenting how you were treated, the more likely they will make a more reasonable offer.
• Complain to your state insurance department. All states will at least seek a response to your complaint from your company. A few states may actually intervene on your behalf with the insurance company in clear cases of bad claims handling. It is important to dispassionately present your side of the story, using the notes you have been taking.
• See a lawyer. Remember, the notes you took are vital. In addition to an award covering your claim, if your treatment was particularly bad, the courts in many states will allow additional compensation when the insurance company acted in “bad faith.”