Ridgecrest Earthquake Recovery
You’ve just experienced a disaster. After you’ve secured your family’s safety what do you do? These ten steps are designed to guide you through the process of presenting your claim to your insurance company.
HOW TO MAKE AN INSURANCE CLAIM
1. Call your agent and report your claim
It is your responsibility to report your claim to your insurer. Call your insurance agent and report the claim. If the agent tells you that he or she is not authorized to accept notice of the claim, then ask to whom you should report the claim. You can also find language regarding giving notice of the claim in your insurance policy if you’re able to access a copy of it. Make a written record of your conversation with you agent. A follow up email to the agent is a quick and easy way to document the telephone call.
2. Keep a log/diary of all communications with your insurance company
You absolutely must keep a written record, whether it’s electronic or paper, of every communication you have with your insurer or any of its representatives or vendors, Your insurance company is required by law to maintain a file of all claim related communications. If you end up in a dispute with your insurance company, you will need your own record of what occurred during the handling of your claim.
3. Document your loss
Photograph or video all of the damage to your home and personal property if you are able to do so. Begin preparing a detailed list of your damaged personal property. You can add to it as you recall additional items lost in the disaster. Give copies of the photos, videos and inventory list to your claims representative at your first meeting
4. You must allow your insurance company an opportunity to inspect your damaged property.
Your insurance company has a legal right to inspect your damaged property. Do not throw away or discard any personal property before allowing your insurer an opportunity to inspect the property. During major disasters insurers may not inspect every item of damaged property, nevertheless you must give them the opportunity to do so. If your insurer says they do not need to inspect certain items of damaged property, make sure you send them an email or letter confirming the conversation and document the conversation in your log/diary.
5. Communicate with your insurer in writing
Always Communicate with your insurer in writing. If you do have telephone conversations, then confirm such conversations with a follow up email to your insurer. If you end up in a dispute with your insurer, you will want a clear record of what transpired during the handling of your claim
6. Confirm that your insurer is meeting all deadlines required by law and is properly keeping you informed of its progress in handling your claim
California has detailed regulations governing the insurer’s claim handling and very specific deadlines that the insurer is bound to follow. For example, your insurer must accept or deny your insurance claim within 40 calendar days of receipt of notice of the claim or provide you with a written explanation detailing what additional information they need to complete their investigation of the claim. (Cal. Code of Regulations section 2695.7(b).) Thereafter the insurer must provide you with a written update every 30 days until a determination is made. (Cal. Code of Regulations section 2695.7(c)(1),)
7. Never sign a release of your claim
Never agree to close your claim or completely settle your claim. Insurance companies are prohibited, by law, from requiring you to sign a release in order to receive payment of insurance benefits.
8. Know when to contact a professional to assist in the presentation of your claim
Insurance company adjusters are professionals who handle property damage claims every day. In most instances, the adjusters are more experienced at estimating the damages and the cos to repair damages than you are. If you’re overwhelmed with sorting it all out, you may need a professional to assist you. You may need a public adjuster, an engineer or a contractor to help ensure that you receive sufficient funds to rebuild your home and replace your damaged personal property.
Most Importantly, if your claim is not proceeding smoothly or you believe that you insurer is lowballing you or refusing to fully compensate you for your loss, you need to retain a qualified insurance bad faith attorney to assist you. You may ultimately have to file a lawsuit to recover your rightful policy benefits and you will need an experienced bad faith attorney to handle your lawsuit.
9. Verify repair estimates provided by your insurer
Unless your are a contractor or engineer, your lack the knowledge and training to know if your insurer’s estimate will provide sufficient funds to repair or replaces your home and damaged personal property. You are permitted, by law , to accept payment based on the insurer’s estimate while simultaneously requesting that they pay more based on your own estimate. Once the insurer provides you with its estimate of the cost of repair that amount is deemed undisputed and the carrier must pay it within 30 days. (Cal. Code of Regulations section 2695.7(h).)
10. Know your deadline to file a lawsuit
Most California insurance policies have a one-year statute of limitation for the filing of a lawsuit against the insurer. However, the running of the statute is tolled during the time that your insurance claim is open. The insurer must advise you in writing when it closes your claim and must advise you of the one-year statute of limitations when closing your claim. You should demand, in writing, that your insurer provide you with the amount of time you have remaining to file a lawsuit. If you have questions regarding the time limit to file a lawsuit, you should immediately consult a qualified insurance bad faith attorney.
Alexander Cohen : Partner
Terry Bailey : Attorney
16001 Ventura Blvd., Suite 200
Encino, CA 91436
Phone: (310) 407-7888
10620 Treena Street Suite 230
San Diego, CA 92131
Phone: (424) 288-4367