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What You Need to Know About Homeowners’ Insurance and Claims

By: Matthew H. Fry, Esquire
        [email protected]

The Basics

Homeowners insurance is required for any home that has a mortgage, so the vast majority of homeowners have homeowners insurance. If your house is damaged, whether by fire, weather, or a leaky pipe, or if personal property is stolen, chances are that some or all of the damage or loss is covered under your policy. However, there are always exceptions:

Before you’re in a situation of having to file a claim. you make want to take these precautions to make your claim easier.

1.  Read your policy or ask your insurance broker or agent to go over it with you.  It is important to know what is covered and what is not.  For example, cash stolen from your home is typically not covered or is only covered up to a certain amount, so it is important to know what your policy covers so you can protect your assets.

2.  If you have any collectibles, antiques, expensive jewelry or other valuables in your home, ask your insurance agent or broker if they are covered and if not, ask if you can get them covered by your policy.  Insurance companies will sometimes issue riders or special endorsements to a policy, which specifically cover items that would not normally be covered.

3.  Take video with your digital camera or smart phone of your home and personal property, making sure you stop to identify all valuable items that may be part of a claim if they are damaged, destroyed or stolen.  This includes electronics, furniture, antiques, expensive glassware or dinner ware, ect.

If you have a claim:

1.  Try to gather as much information as you can as soon as possible.  Take a lot of pictures of video at different angles and take detailed notes quickly, as events like this which are emotionally traumatic can make it difficult to remember details later.  Try to photograph and video the source of the damage if possible, such as the leaky pike or other cause of the loss.

2.  Do what you need to do to prevent further damage, such as boarding up windows or turning off the water to stop a leak, but don’t start the cleanup or other work until the insurance adjustor comes out to inspect the damage.

3.  If you have a small claim that is just above your deductible, you may want to consider paying it yourself and not pursuing a claim, as small claims may increase your premium, and multiple small claims can cause your insurance company to decide not to renew your policy.

4.  Meet with the contractor and insurance adjustor, and go over the repairs to be made to make sure the damage is being repaired and not covered up or ignored.  If the contractor or insurance adjustor does not want to repair or replace an item you think is damaged, you may want to call in another contractor or hire an independent adjustor to assess the situation.

5.  Keep receipts of all costs associated with the damage.  This includes not only supplies purchased to contain the damage, but also receipts for hotel rooms, meals, and other extra living expenses if you cannot stay at your home.

6.  If your contractor finds new issues or damage while doing work, make sure to contact the insurance adjustor immediately so he or she can reassess the damage.

If your insurance company declines to pay all or part of your claim:

1.  Consider hiring a public adjustor.  A public adjustor tries to negotiate with the insurance company and can sometimes get it to agree to pay more for your claim.  However, do not hire a public adjustor until you have gone through the claims process and been denied, as public adjustors typically charge 10% to 15% of the claim’s value.

2.  If you have gone through the claims process and/or hired an independent adjustor and your insurance company still won’t cover the claim or pay enough, you may need to hire an attorney to file a lawsuit.  Be careful with the timing – your insurance policy will typically set a deadline by which time you must file a lawsuit or else forever lose your right to sue.  Many insurance policies set a one year deadline from the date of the loss.  Be sure to check your own insurance policy.

The attorneys at the Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP are experienced and available to help you.  If you thing you have been treated unfairly or have questions about an insurance claim, contact Matthew J. Fry, Esquire at 610-565-5700, or send him an e-mail at [email protected].

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The Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP, is located in Media, PA and serves clients in and around Media, Glen Riddle Lima, Brookhaven, Wallingford, Newtown Square, Lenni, Springfield, Swarthmore, Chester, Aston, Bryn Mawr, Morton, Woodlyn, Broomall, Gradyville, Folsom, Chester Heights, Crum Lynne, Glen Mills, Marcus Hook, Ridley Park, Drexel Hill, Marple, Bethel, Garnet Valley, Chadds Ford Concord, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County.

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