The Claims Game: How to Win at Losing

No one wants an accident.  It’s so obvious that it shouldn’t even need to be said.  However, when it comes to insurance, a claim is literally the name of the game. In fact, claims are the reason insurance exists.  While we don’t want anyone to have an accident, be it an auto accident or home mishap, the fact that they do is why insurance was invented in the first place.  Your policy is your ticket to getting back to where you were before something bad happened.

But how?  And why is it such a hassle?  Most people see the claims process as a maze with no easy way towards the check in the middle.

My adjuster said left, then right, then… what was it?

The fact of the matter is that there are things we can do to make it easier on both ourselves and the insurance companies.  Here are five tips to help you get paid the amount you need, on time, and without making the experience a nightmare.  Let’s play the claim game.

Tip #1 – Picture This

You know what your car or home looks like better than anyone.  You see it day in and day out, know it front to back, and can drive one or walk through the other while thinking about what you have to do at work, where you need to take the kids, or what is on TV that night.  But your insurance company, usually through your adjuster, doesn’t know it that well at all.  The first time they will see it is usually when they show up and see the gaping hole in the roof, or when your bumper is lying on the side of the road.  It’s like showing up to a first date with a black eye.

Helping me with my new Tinder profile pic.

Get out ahead of this by documenting your stuff!  Take pictures of your car when it’s nice and shiny and clean and with all its parts intact.  Snap photos of your house both inside and outside, and take pictures of your personal property that is of higher value, like your electronics, jewelry, or art.  Having proof is excellent for helping an adjuster know what you had before an accident occurred, and can help them make an accurate assessment of value.  It can also help you remember exactly what you had – there’s nothing worse than not getting paid for an item that was stolen because you forgot it when you were making a list of everything you own while already stressed out after a loss.

Tip #2 – Make a Claims Cheat Sheet

In some games, it’s best to make a cheat sheet in order to know how to win.  The claims game is no different.  Make a list of your items in the house in case of a covered loss, and for your car have all of your maintenance and repair work documented and organized together.  It may seem like a hassle, but when you prove what excellent condition your car is and see the difference in value, you’ll be happy you put a little effort into being prepared.

Pawn to lazy, unprepared, procrastinating bishop.  Check.

Organizing your auto documents and making lists of auto and home belongings can have additional benefits.  You may not realize how much stereo equipment you have and that it isn’t covered on your basic auto policy.  Or you may find that you have a great deal of valuable antiques that you use as furniture, and maybe you need more coverage for your personal property.  Some of us might not know where our auto title is, or how much china we have (and is it insured under normal personal property, or not?  Do I have the right kind of policy to begin with?  Maybe I need to check out Homeowners Insurance 101 after all!)  And I’m about to get my boat out of the backyard – is that covered?

Being prepared can make the difference between coming out on top or facing the agony of not having something covered after a claim.

Tip #3 – Claim Victory During the Accident

So you’re there.  The worst has happened.  You’ve had an auto accident, or something bad has happened at your home.  What do you do?

Where was that button?  Oh, there it is.

DON’T PANIC.  The third key to winning at claims is to stay calm and get as much information as possible.  It may be difficult to do, as accidents of any variety are high-stress situations.  But if we can take a breath and think clearly, we can set ourselves on the path to having insurance reimburse us for our losses – or at the least help us minimize any damage that might happen.

If you or anyone else is hurt, make sure a person’s safety takes priority.  Property can be replaced – life is more precious.  Always take steps to minimize harm and help those in need, even if that means waiting for and complying with police and healthcare professionals.

If everyone is okay, document the damage.  Take pictures of the accident, exchange contact and insurance information with any involved parties, and make sure you do what is necessary to inform the authorities regarding what happened.  If it is an auto accident, contact and be honest with law enforcement.  If it is your home, make sure you call the relevant authority, be it police, firefighters, or any additional agency (the gas company to help with a gas leak, for example).

Anybody got a light?

Also, do not put yourself in harms way to try and fix anything.  However, if something can be done to prevent further damage safely, go ahead and do it.  Don’t reach into a burning car to get your purse!  But if your daughter hit the gas by accident and crashed into the house, busting the pipes and causing water damage, cut the water off to prevent further damage.

Tip #4 – Communication is Key

After your accident, the first person you call is your psychic agent.  The reason you have a fantastic independent insurance agent is to guide you through events just like this, not only to make sure you handle it correctly but also to get advice on what can happen in the following days.  And honestly, most of us agents just like knowing that our insureds are okay after something bad has happened!   Your agent may not predict the future, but they can help you understand the process of claims, help explain how your policy works, and contact your company for you – or walk you through how to do it yourself.  At some point the insurance company will want to talk to you directly, as no one knows more about what happened during the accident than you do.  If the accident happens after office hours, shoot your agent an email so they can contact you first thing the next morning.  You won’t be bugging them by reporting a claim – it’s literally their job.

But my agent says I can get a little… clingy.

If you have all of those pictures, lists, or documents we talked about earlier, feel free to share them with your agent as well.  They will let you know if it is relevant or not, and can forward those on to your adjuster or tell you which documents the adjuster might need.  Be as communicative as you need to be, without expecting a call every hour.  Claims take time, so make sure you contact your agent at first, then give them the space they need to work on your behalf to get you back to where you were before the accident.

Tip #5 – Your Adjuster is Not Your Enemy

There is a common misconception that an adjuster, the person sent by the insurance company to asses the damage, wants to give you as little as possible or, even worse, deny your claim.  This is not true!  The adjuster is not your enemy, but your friend.  Instead of seeing the adjuster as the person who wants to make sure you get nothing, see them for what they are:

The adjuster is the person who can give you the money.

If we fight, hide information from, or work against our adjuster, we make ourselves look suspicious.  Most adjusters have seen people lie in order to try and cheat the system to get more money than they need, and there is a word for that: fraud.  The last thing we want is the person who’s job it is to give us the money we deserve think we are dishonest!  Instead, work with your adjuster to discover what really happened.  Also, share all of those wonderful documents and pictures that you’ve prepared so that they know exactly what your car looked like before the wreck, or how big that sapphire really was on grandma’s stolen heirloom necklace.  In the game of claims, adjusters are the last piece that helps you win it all.

Thank you for your help, Ms. Thompson.  I’ll Venmo the money right over.

If you follow these five tips, you’ll find that what can be a nightmare can be survived, handled, and repaired.  While we can’t always avoid accidents, we can do our best to make sure you come out on the other end good as new.  If you have questions or want to know more about claims, give us a call, shoot us an email, or fill out the contact form below.  At Alliance Insurance, we’re here to make sure you’re not alone when you play the game of claims.

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