3 Tips for Maximizing Recovery When Filing a Homeowner’s Insurance Claim

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
Founder of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.

Homeowner’s insurance carriers should pay the full value of a claim to an insured because insurers collect premiums pursuant to just such a promise.  However, insurers are often less than cooperative when their customers file a claim.  This reluctance is founded on the insurance industry’s profit model.  The less insurers fulfill their contractual duties to an insured of providing a financial guarantee against certain types of losses the greater the profits of the carrier.  In other words, insurance carriers can increase profits by minimizing the benefits they provide to their consumers.  The good news is that policyholders can fight back by taking certain steps even before they have an actual claim.  This blog post provides three suggestions that can increase the payout on homeowner’s insurance claim.

Research, Research, Research: Insurers are not all created equal.  There are many services that can be used to evaluate insurance carriers and forms of coverage.  A policyholder who conducts some preliminary research prior to purchasing a policy will have a better feel for an insurer regarding issues like response time, reputation for hassles involving claims, and speed of adjustment and/or payment of claims.  For example, Consumer Reports puts out a review of carriers that evaluates their reliability and their claims handling efficiency among other factors.  If a policyholder does not engage in any research prior to securing homeowners insurance, the insured might find the going tough sledding when it comes time to file a claim.

For example, a homeowner told a story to Consumer Reports about his experience after his home suffered significant damage in a tornado.  Despite State Farm’s status as the largest home insurance company in the nation, the insurer took two weeks to get an adjuster out to inspect the property.  The homeowner also reported that the insurer dragged its feet about paying the $75,000 claim and left the insured short by several thousand dollars.  A Consumer Report study rated State Farm as a middling level insurer in terms of its customer satisfaction among homeowners.

By contrast, a couple, insured by a top-rated firm in the same study, Amica, reported receiving “steller” service.  The couple’s roof was damaged by three feet of snow and ice dams.  The amount of the damage was estimated to be approximately $30,000.  The damage was caused by melt water dripping down walls, along the top of hardwood floors, and across ceilings. The insurer handled the claim over a phone call and sent an adjuster to the premises the next day.  The insurance company agreed to pay for all the damage and cut a check within the same week.

In all fairness, these individual stories do not necessarily reflect trends, so prospective policyholders should be cautious about making broad generalizations about the named insurance companies based on these two media reported scenarios.  However, the stories do illustrate that the quality of coverage can vary, so homeowners need to do their homework before selecting an insurer.

Be Prepared to Do Battle:  While policyholders should hope that their claims process proceeds like a smooth business transaction, the claim experience is often marked by a contentious dispute.  While an insured should try to interact with his or her insurer in a mature and polite manner, the insured needs to be prepared for battle.  This preparation might involve asking an agent or broker you trust about your current home value, permissible perils, minimum coverage limits for full protection in the event of a total loss, and potential insurance gaps.  A contractor should also be retained to inspect your home prior to and following any loss, which can provide valuable evidence in adjusting the loss.  Although the insurer may try to avoid payment for basement damage under a homeowner’s policy by alleging the damage was caused by flooding, an experienced Miami Insurance Claims Lawyer might assist you in seeking coverage for the water damage. 

Consider Upgrades, and Improvements: While insurers are only obligated to return the home to its pre-loss form, an incremental additional amount paid out of pocket might provide valuable material upgrades that include new carpeting, wind resistant garage doors, or windows with safety glass.  These might be improvements that would be cost prohibitive if the insurer were not paying the bulk of the expense.

Our Miami insurance claims firm invites you to contact us if you are having difficulties with your insurance company.  Florida insurance claims lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo handles claims against insurance companies in Miami and throughout Florida. The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations.  No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees.  Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.

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