Owning a property such as a home is usually a dream come true. However, this dream can shutter within a twinkle of an eye due to fire, vandalism, or storm damage. Luckily, an insurance cover can come to your rescue to offer financial support for repairing the damage.
If your home goes up in flames or your car gets vandalized, you need your insurance policy to cover the cost of repairs or replacement. However, getting the insurance company to pay for these damages is not always a walk in the park.
The insurance companies are in this business to make profits and will do whatever they can to undercut the value of your property.
You don’t have to settle for any amount they offer because you have the right to negotiate and receive a fair settlement.
So, how do you ensure you get what you deserve for your property damage settlement? This article offers some helpful tips to use.
Review Your Insurance Policy
There’s a limit to how much your insurance policy can cover, and you must understand that before making a claim.
For example, a typical homeowner’s policy will cover you against lightning strikes, fire, and other natural disasters. However, you will need to purchase a separate policy for floods and earthquakes.
The policy also limits the items it covers inside your home, with most covering jewelry and collectibles.
You will not get compensated for any item not listed in your policy. If you have trees and shrubs within your home, you may need additional coverage.
Ensure you carefully review your policy and understand all the insurance language used. Cover any loopholes that might jeopardize your claim before filing a claim. Go through the rules and regulations carefully and ensure everything is clear before you proceed.
You need evidence of the extent of damage in the form of pictures or videos to present to your insurance company.
For example, if the entire roof of your house is damaged in a storm, your pictures should show that. Your insurance company will rely on the evidence you present when negotiating your settlement.
If your car gets damaged in a car crash, you need to gather details of the accident, witness and other driver’s information, pictures of the physical damage, and more.
Compile and organize all your records and the documents you need for the claim. The more information you have, the easier it will be for you to negotiate.
Also, make sure you’re clear on what you want. For example, if your car is severely damaged, a simple repair will not work. If you want it deemed a total loss, you must be prepared to prove your point during negotiations.
Work With an Independent Adjuster
Insurance companies work with claims adjusters to assess your loss. One thing is for sure, though, these adjusters are contractors of the insurance company and will never take your side, even if the damage is obvious. They will always undervalue the cost of your damage.
When discussing your property damage claims with these adjusters, be careful about what information you reveal to them.
Give them factual and straight-to-the-point answers. Don’t trouble yourself to explain further or give unnecessary comments. They can use irrelevant or unnecessary comments to reduce or deny your claim.
Better yet, work with your own independent adjust to offer you an unbiased estimate. You can use the estimate from your own adjuster during negotiations with your insurance company.
Have Your Total Payout Number in Mind
With all the evidence at hand and the information about your policy, you should have a payout number in mind.
Do your calculations and figure out how many losses you’ve incurred due to the damage. Don’t just wait blindly for the insurance company’s valuation.
Once you have a figure on your total losses, estimate the minimum payment you’ll likely get from your insurance company.
Remember, you’re trying to get as much payment as possible, not just a reasonable number. The number should reflect what you deserve, and you should not share it with your adjuster.
Your estimated amount will let you understand the figure you can and can’t expect. It gives you some sort of stability and bargaining point. The amount you accept from your insurance should be as close to your total payout as possible.
Beware of the First Offer
Chances are that the insurance company will give you the first offer sooner than you expect. This offer is going to be way lower than what you deserve. The goal is to test how much you’re knowledgeable about your rights and what you deserve.
Since you might be frustrated with your losses and looking for quick ways to settle your bills, you’ll be tempted to take the offer.
It’s important to arm yourself with some knowledge of how much your full settlement may cost so that you know if the offer is too low or tempting.
Ask them to break down your compensation when you receive the offer. They should clarify all the inclusions and exclusions in simple language you can comprehend. Arm yourself with all the records and documents to prove why the offer might be too low.
Appeal Your Offer
The first offer you receive from your insurance shouldn’t be final, and you’re not obliged to accept it. The insurance company also knows that this offer is low and is always willing to negotiate as long as you understand what you deserve.
Remember, if you accept a low offer, you will suffer losses because it will not cover your repair costs.
Talk to your adjust and explain why you believe the offer is too low. Let them know that the offer will not help cover the cost of the damage.
Arm yourself with full evidence of the extent of damage and how much money you need to cover it. Be polite but direct with the information you provide. Don’t show any sign of weakness or self-doubt when refusing this offer.
You also have the right to make them justify the number they’re offering and show you how they arrived at it. Be careful when they explain this and find flaws in their calculations.
Once you find some mistakes, you can use that to your advantage and put yourself in a position to receive a higher amount.
Get the Help of a Property Damage Lawyer
When you feel the stakes are low and you’re comfortable negotiating by yourself, go for it. However, if you feel intimidated and your guts tell you, you won’t get what you deserve, get professional help.
A property damage lawyer has years of experience dealing with stubborn adjusters and negotiating with insurance companies. They understand the law better and have some resources that can help with the negotiations.
Your lawyer can also conduct their own evaluation of the damage and determine what your settlement amount should look like. This evaluation is always free of charge or part of your overall fees.
Once the attorney has their number, they’ll get down to further negotiations and mediation. They’ll sit down with the attorney from your insurance company and compare the numbers. If they reach an agreement, they’ll put everything down on paper, and the case will be closed.
Consider Filing a Lawsuit
If the insurance company is still adamant about its figures even after a third-party evaluation, then it’s time for the next action.
Filing a lawsuit is the last resort after everything fails to bear fruit. Your property damage lawyer will advise whether it’s worth it and guide you on how to go about it.
Remember, it’s advisable to avoid filing a lawsuit as much as possible and only go that route if you have no other option. The lawsuit process can be long and complicated.
However, an experienced attorney will walk you through this process. They know how to fight for your rights to receive fair compensation and will work in and out of the courtroom with your insurance companies.
So, don’t even think twice about filing a lawsuit if that involves getting what you deserve.
Seeing your years of hard work go down the drain can be a devastating experience. The least you need is further frustrations from your insurance company because they don’t want to pay for the damage.
But understand that insurance companies are in business to make a profit and won’t compromise just to make you feel better.
The only thing that’s going to save you is your negotiation skills. Don’t allow them to talk you into accepting a meager payment that won’t even cover half of the damage on your property.
Figure out the number you’re supposed to get and compare it with what the insurance company is offering. If their numbers are too low, go back to the table and negotiate with them further.
Consider taking it if it’s slightly lower but close to what you calculated.
You might need to bring in third-party evaluators and a property damage lawyer if you feel like you’re being duped. Professional help will give you a helping hand and ensure you get nothing less than what you deserve.