Filing your home insurance claim can be as simple as picking up the phone and making a call, but there are several steps that you will want to take before doing that. Here's a quick checklist of what you'll want to do before you file your claim:
- Call the police, if necessary, and then your insurer. Whether or not you're filing your claim right away, it's important to keep your insurer in the loop. This will give them an opportunity to advise you on any additional steps that you might need to take.
- Read your insurance policy. You want to make sure that your damages are covered. For instance, you might be surprised to learn that most home insurance policies exclude flooding. So a flooding claim might not be allowed to go through.
- Evaluate the cost of the damages. Can you comfortably cover the losses out-of-pocket? If so, then that's usually the best option. For most minor damages — such as broken windows and fences or damaged drywall — the deductible is going to outweigh the actual repair costs. Insurance claims are best reserved for those damages that we cannot comfortably cover ourselves.
- Create documentation. The easiest way to do this is with a video camera. You can scan the damages so that you can show your insurer exactly what happened. Video is recommended because it's easier to capture a whole room; you might forget some critical detail if you're using a photo camera. But any documentation helps.
- Make what repairs you can for now. This might even be stretching a tarp over a broken window. You want to control the damages, because the initial incident might be covered, but any additional damages owing to homeowner negligence might not be.
- Get an estimate. Make sure you get one from a reliable contractor.
- Inform your mortgage lender. This step is only needed if the home is not yet paid off in full.
Once all of these are items in order, file your claim. Your insurer can then send an adjuster to your home to assess the damages.