Water damage is the most common type of homeowner’s insurance claim. It is also the type of claim which gets denied most frequently often because the homeowner made some mistake when talking with the agents. Here are some tips for how to talk with your insurance company to make sure you get the full compensation you are entitled to.
After a disaster like water damage occurs, you will probably be in a panic. Don’t call the insurance company until you calm down.
First call a reputable water damage cleanup company. Wait for them to arrive (they should come within 60 minutes or less). While waiting for the cleanup company, follow any of their instructions, such as shutting off water and electricity and propping up furniture on blocks. Next, you will want to hunt down your insurance policy. Go over the policy while the water damage cleanup technicians do their assessment. Once you understand your policy (the water damage cleanup team can help you make sense of it) and have gotten a damage assessment, you should be calmer and more ready to speak with the insurance company.
Don’t Say the Word “Flood”
If there is 1 foot of water in your basement, you would consider it “flooded.” But insurance companies use very different legal language than we do. “Flooding” is water damage from an outside source (such as heavy rains or flash flooding). Homeowner’s insurance companies do NOT cover flood damage. So, never use this word when talking with the insurance company. They will not this word use and could deny your claim.
Stick to the Facts
It is good advice to say as little as possible when talking to your insurance company. Just answer their questions and report the facts. Don’t try to guess what will happen, such as that you “may” need to throw away your carpet or furniture.
Don’t Try to Explain Why the Damage Occurred
Remember that everything you say to the insurance company could be recorded. If you try to explain why the water damage occurred, you might inadvertently admit your “guilt.” For example, if you try to explain that “the plumber told us we have rusty pipes, and I think that they might have broken,” then the insurance company can say you are to blame for the water damage because you knew about the risk and didn’t replace the pipes.
Record All Communications
Every time you talk to the insurance company, record the date, time, and name of the contact person. Also make a brief note about what was discussed. Stay organized by putting all information relating to the claim in a binder (records of communication, receipts, documentation of damages, etc.).
Follow Up with an Email or Letter
Insurance companies may lose the records of your communication. As further protection for yourself, create a paper trail. Each time you call the insurance company or speak to someone in person, send a brief follow-up email or letter. In the email/letter, confirm anything that was said – such as reimbursement amounts or assessments.