Most homeowner insurance policies generally require you do the following things:
- Give immediate notice of a possible claim to your producer or company. If the loss is a theft, you are also to notify the police. If you lost your checkbook or credit cards, you should notify your bank or credit card company.
- Protect your property from further loss or damage. If you make temporary repairs, keep a record of what you do and save all receipts for expenses you incur in undertaking the repairs. This could include things like buying plywood and nails to board up broken windows.
- Give your producer, claims adjuster and or company a list of all damaged, destroyed or stolen property. Be sure to keep a copy of this list. In case of theft, be sure to give a copy to the police. An insurance company may have its own adjusters or hire independent ones and their services are performed free of charge. In Massachusetts, consumers also have the choice of hiring a public insurance adjuster.
- Show the damaged property to your producer, claims adjuster and/or company if asked. Do not dispose of any damaged property until your producer, claims adjuster and/or company says you can.
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Your Claim Payment
Your full claim payment may come in multiple payments. The first payment will likely be an emergency advance and may include additional living expenses if the damage to your home renders it uninhabitable. An insurance adjuster for your insurance company makes a preliminary assessment of the damage to your property based on the actual cash value of the property just prior to the damage, and you should receive a check for that amount soon after. If the contractor you hire to make the necessary repairs or replacements finds hidden damage that the insurance company adjuster was not aware of, call the insurance company immediately to set up an appointment to have the damage re-appraised. If you have a policy that provides replacement cost for damages, the insurance company will pay you the difference between the replacement cost and the actual cash value once they have received proof that repairs are complete.
If your damages exceed the amount of your coverage, federal agencies will occasionally provide grants or low-interest loans to assist with recovery following major disasters.
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What To Do If You Don't Agree With Your Insurance Company
If you feel that the amount of money offered by your insurance company to pay for a loss is not fair or there are other insurer practices that seem unfair or deceptive, there are several alternative courses of action that you may want to consider:
- Always first try to resolve the dispute directly with your insurance company
- You can demand for appraisal, as per the terms of your homeowners insurance policy, which is a method for resolving the question of the loss amount when the insurer and insured can’t agree;
- You can file a complaint with Division of Insurance;
- You file a claim in small claims court;
- You can hire a lawyer to represent your interests; or
- You may request your insurance company have the proposed settlement amount be reviewed by an arbitration panel.