Property Insurance as Claimant

As good a system as insurance is, it isn’t perfect. Masses of people, mountains of paper and myriads of problems must be processed daily and hourly by the best of companies. Everything seems to go smoothly as long as all you have to do is pay your premiums. But when it comes time to file even a small claim, you are treated as an adversary.

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You can still make the system work. You just have to take a few steps to make your position clear. Don’t be afraid to challenge any denial or unfair settlement.

Steps to Take After Buying Your Property Insurance

Read your contract carefully. Plan to spend a quiet hour studying it. Learn specifically what is not covered.

Take an inventory of your belongings. Keep it in your safe-deposit box. Include: Descriptions of possessions that matter to you. List the makes and model numbers of electronic equipment and appliances. Photographs or a videotape showing the condition and quality of your valuables. Appraisals of expensive items such as antiques, artwork, furs, and jewelry. Receipts documenting purchase prices. Canceled checks or charge card statements can be substituted.

When Filing a Claim...

File a complete and accurate claim. Take your time and fill out everything the way the insurance company wants it. File a police report. Your claim may be denied if you don’t. Write a detailed account of the incident immediately after it occurs so that you don’t forget any information. Take photos of the damage. Telephone your agent and send him or her a copy of the police report. Follow his or her instructions on how to prevent further damage.


If the insurance company’s offer seems low, request a written explanation of how it was calculated. An attorney can sometimes help. For a modest fee, legal intervention might persuade your insurer to raise the offer rather than incurring further legal expenses.

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There are three types of disputes you are most likely to win: Ambiguously worded clauses. The courts often find in favor of the policyholder if the language of the contract can easily be misinterpreted. Offers based on substandard repair estimates. If you feel that the shop whose quote your company accepts does poor work, get several other estimates to prove theirs is low. Offers that ignore pertinent information. If you can prove that your car is much more valuable than the Blue Book or NADA figure, you might be able to negotiate a better settlement. It may seem frustrating to satisfy so many requirements to get your company to honor your claim, but think of both sides. You wouldn’t want your company to leave itself open to abuses. It could eventually fail and your policy would be worthless. Sometimes the rules seem to get in the way, but they were actually designed to protect you.

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