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Preparing For A Home Insurance Disaster Related Claim

How to prep for disaster insurance claims

Tools and tips for making an inventory list, documenting damage to your home, and working with your adjuster.

Regardless of whether Hurricane Sandy uprooted a tree or flooded your basement, sifting through your damaged belongings can be overwhelming. While it may be tempting to throw out damaged things right away, it’s important to capture the state of your home if you plan to file an insurance claim. Once it’s deemed safe to return, heed these simple reminders to make sure you accurately assess the damage before beginning the rebuilding process

Before the adjuster arrives. Your insurance policy will require you to make a list of everything that is damaged or destroyed. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners recommends that you carefully separate damaged items, and if you don’t already have a home inventory list, sit down as a family and make a list of items in each room by memory. From sports equipment, linens to china, write down a description, brand name, where you purchased it, cost, model and serial number if applicable.

Unless local officials require so, try not to discard anything before an adjuster has seen it. If you do need to toss things out, remember to snap a photograph of your discarded item. Also, keep samples for the adjuster to see. For example, save a swatch of ruined carpeting to help prepare your repair estimate.

Note: You may have different kinds of insurance covering all the damages from the storm — an auto policy that covers a flooded car, for example — so it is likely you may have to file separate claims for each loss. It’s still a good idea to capture all of these details.

Using your camera or smartphone, conduct a thorough walk-through documenting the damage in each space. Shoot video and narrate if possible, highlighting everything from small electronics to appliances and furniture. “Any graphic representation of damaged items is helpful. You want to account for every single one of your items,” advises Joseph King of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. “Look for serial numbers, model numbers and any paper receipts (if salvageable). Make 2-3 copies of each receipt, as you’ll need one for the adjuster and for your own records.” If you have have the receipts for damaged items, it will expedite settling your claim.

Tip: You can also set the date stamp on your camera settings. Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America, says, “If you later realize you have no pictures when you file a claim, don’t forget that your family likely has pictures of rooms in your house from holidays or other celebrations that can be helpful in re-creating a list of your belongings.”

Smartphone apps. If you don’t already have an updated digital catalog itemizing everything in your home, a handful of apps can help with this daunting process.
Some mobile apps can also analyze whether you are under- or over-insured.

Work with your adjuster. When the adjuster comes on site, King advises, “Work as closely as possible with your insurance adjuster. They are there to help you, and the rebuilding process will be smoother if you stay with them. This is your insurance, your house — your life.”