It’s obviously stressful to realize that you’ve suffered property damage. Whether the cause was a serious fire, a storm that led to water damage, or anything else, you might feel overwhelmed. But this is going to be a time for action. The faster you clear your mind, the faster you can start the process of getting back to normal.
Here are the six steps you should take as soon as possible. If you need any help along the way, or your insurance company is making things harder than they need to be, the property damage attorneys with Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh will be here for you. Our firm has a great deal of experience in this area of the law, and we deliver positive results on behalf of our clients on a regular basis.
Learn more about what we may be able to do for you by contacting us online or giving us a call at (561) 295-5825.
1. Immediately Report the Claim to Your Insurance Carrier
Suppose you’ve experienced significant flood damage in your home because one of your home’s old cast iron pipes broke. Check the extent of the damage, and then get in touch with your insurance company so you can start the claims process. You’ll need to do this as quickly as you can – if you don’t act promptly, that could lead to a denial of your claim.
The first thing your insurer will do will be to send a form known as Proof of Loss. You’ll write down the expected amount of money it will take to perform any repairs that may be necessary, and to replace any items that may have been destroyed. Fill it out as thoroughly and accurately as you can.
2. Take Plenty of Pictures and Videos
You’ll also need to document the damage so you can provide the evidence needed to obtain the money it will take to get your home back to normal. This means taking pictures and videos of the affected area. Pay attention to the details – if you notice the formation of mold due to a flood, take pictures of it from at least two or three angles.
It really doesn’t matter what type of damage you’ve suffered – document it as thoroughly as you can. If a tree blew down and fell on your car, take as many pictures as possible, in the safest manner possible.
Also, if you have any pictures of the inside and outside of your home that were taken before the damage took place, send those to the insurer as well. They will compare the “before and after” photos and verify that you’re not trying to make a claim for any pre-existing damage.
3. Make Sure You Have a Copy of Your Home Insurance Policy on Hand
Does your homeowner’s policy cover the roof damage you have due to a leak or days of heavy rain? How would you know if you haven’t read it?
Sure, it’s understandable if you haven’t done so. These policies are actually written in a way that makes them nearly impossible to read, much less comprehend. But you should at least have a general idea of what’s covered and what’s not covered. Homeowners will sometimes make mistaken assumptions. For example, if the policy says that a water backup is covered, they might take that to mean that includes flooding due to a storm – but that’s not the case.
If you’re having issues with the insurance company, an attorney can take a close look at your policy and determine whether or not your claim is legitimate.
4. Don’t Talk to Your Insurance Company without a Lawyer Present
Some insurance companies aren’t above engaging in some pretty shady tactics from time to time in an effort to protect their profits. If they know a homeowner doesn’t have legal representation, they might make a low-ball settlement offer. They’ll figure the policyholder is desperate for money, and will gladly take whatever they can get.
Or, they might deny a claim initially in hopes the homeowner will just give up. After all, it can take a great deal of effort to prove that a person’s claim is legitimate. Insurers will sometimes bank on the fact that a homeowner won’t want to put forth that effort.
In many cases, insurers will dispatch highly skilled adjusters to speak with someone who has just suffered property damage. The adjuster might seem friendly, but all they’re trying to do is to get the homeowner to slip up in some sort of way, and admit they might have somehow caused the damage. If that happens, the claim will be denied.
An attorney can protect you from experiencing this fate, and shield you from an adjuster’s harassment and tricks.
5. Keep Records of Everything
There’s a chance you might have to leave your home if your property damage is severe. If that’s the case, you should keep every single receipt associated with the time you have to stay in a hotel, or wherever else you need to go. Don’t forget about the less obvious receipts, such as the extra gasoline it will take because you have to drive farther to and from work.
Also, keep all receipts of the repair work going on to fix your home. This not only means materials, but labor and any other expenses that occur. The better organized your record-keeping, the fewer headaches you’ll encounter.
6. Hire a Property Damage Attorney
Trying to deal with the aftermath of significant property damage will be a huge undertaking. But you don’t have to try to go it alone. A skilled property damage attorney with Keller, Melchiorre & Walsh could be a huge help.
We know how to help our clients document their damage, and how to keep detailed records of all their expenses. Our attorneys are also familiar with all of the tricks that insurance companies play – and know how to defeat them.
Schedule a free consultation by calling (561) 295-5825 or using our online contact form.