Although homeowners insurance is designed to protect your home and personal property, some people have a difficult time getting a fair settlement with their homeowners insurance company. Prepare for the worst possible outcome in advance by taking pictures of your property in its normal condition. If you then become the victim of a natural disaster or other catastrophe, you can take several steps to maximize your settlement.
Take pictures of the damage to your home or property immediately after the damaging incident. This preserves the evidence even if you begin cleaning up. Your photos should show clear images of the damaged items from several different angles. Photos are especially helpful if you also have comparative photos of what your property looked like before the damage.Step 2
Consult your insurance policy to determine your deductible and maximum claim amount. Sometimes insurance adjusters provide misleading information about the limits of your policy, and knowing the specifics of what your policy allows can help you assertively represent your interests.Step 3
Obtain an estimate to fix the damage or replace your property. Homeowners insurance companies provide their own estimates, but these estimates are sometimes low-ball numbers. If you can demonstrate that it's not possible to fix your property for the amount quoted by the insurance company, you may be able to negotiate a higher settlement.Step 4
Contact your own insurance claims adjuster. A public claims adjuster can give you an unbiased estimate of a fair settlement. These insurance adjusters don't work for insurance companies; instead, they work to help consumers determine what a reasonable settlement is. The National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters can refer you to a claims adjuster in your area. You can approach your homeowners insurance company with the information provided by this public adjuster and use it as a negotiating tool.
- If you're having difficulty negotiating with your homeowners insurance, consider hiring an attorney who can level the playing field between you and your insurance company. Lawyers are frequently able to negotiate settlements without filing lawsuits.
- Don't yell at or threaten your claims adjuster or other insurance company representatives. People are more likely to help you if you are easy to deal with, and threatening a large insurance company rarely works.
- Don't immediately accept the first offer your insurance company makes. Many insurance companies are willing to negotiate, and if you think the proposed settlement is unfair, you should express this to your homeowners insurance company and substantiate why you believe the offer is unreasonable.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.