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The art of filing a homeowners insurance claim

Art of filling homeowner's insurance claim

Homeowners may not realize it, but there’s a price to be paid for filing a homeowner’s claim.

Depending on where you live and what type of claim you file, you can expect to see your annual home insurance costs rise by 9%, according to a study from insuranceQuotes, in collaboration with Quadrant Information Services.

Some states are worse than others. In Wyoming, homeowners who file a claim see their insurance premiums rise by an average of 32%. In Texas, homeowners will not see any rise in home insurance rates after making a claim.

All in all, 37 states, along with Washington, D.C., saw home insurance rates rise by more than 10% after filing a claim.

See also: The 'secret' report that affects what you pay for insurance

Even so, U.S. consumers seem to like their home insurance policies.

A separate study from J.D. Power shows that, for a third straight year, U.S. consumers are generally satisfied with their insurance companies after filing a claim.

Jeremy Bowler, senior director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power, says that insurers are taking the lessons they’ve successfully implemented on the auto insurance side of their business, and merging those lessons into their homeowner’s insurance services.

“They are getting serious about applying the knowledge from their auto business to property claims, and we’re seeing that reflected in higher customer satisfaction,” Bowler says. “The big (weather-related) storms masked the steady progress the industry has also been making in recent years on routine claims, but we’re really seeing that shine now."

Follow the path to a better claims experience

The J.D Power study reveals some helpful steps consumers can take to ensure a positive experience with their insurer. These includes better ways to file a homeowners claim, how to generate a favorable experience where their rates won’t rise, and how to get good service.

For example, homeowners have the best experiences when their insurance agent is the “primary source throughout the claims process.”

Another area of focus for homeowners looking to file a successful insurance claim is to file by phone, which increases the chances of more helpful dialogue with an agent, and which should lead to a positive outcome. Seventy-one percent of consumers surveyed by J.D. Power opted that for route (email and texts were used, too, but not as regularly as phone calls).

Boost your odds of a good claims experience

What else can homeowners do to hike the odds of a successful claim process?

Being fully prepared is at the top of that list, experts say.

“Start with the most important first step,” says David Miller, owner of Miller Public Adjusters, which has offices in Appleton, Wisc., Tampa, Fla., and Chicago, Ill. “Read your policy and get a full understanding of it before filing a claim.”

See also: When (and when not) to file a home insurance claim

Also, know who you are talking to when you meet with the public adjuster, Miller adds. “Determine if the adjuster works for your insurance company or another business and what role the representative has in the claim. Start documenting the process with dates, names and confirm correspondence by email, when possible.”

Miller also advises knowing what dialogue not to have when filing a claim. "Don’t offer any additional information other than the necessary information requested. “It’s not necessary to engage in conversation regarding your personal schedule or income. And, there is no obligation to give a recorded statement and you should not do so, to avoid missing or misstated information. You don’t want to reveal something inadvertently that can give the insurance company a way out of paying some damages or deny a claim.”

Insurance industry experts contacted by insuranceQuotes also advise homeowners to be above-board throughout the claims process.

"When it comes to filing a homeowners insurance claim, a homeowner may feel hesitant about what to say, or not to say, to their insurance adjuster,” offers Scott Lapine, national manager of claims customer relations for Farmers Insurance. “Being completely truthful with your adjuster is always the best way to handle any claim, and while it may sound strange to some, saying nothing or leaving out some facts of a loss, may actually work against a homeowner.”

Listen, and bring good will

Listening closely to claims adjusters is also a smart move for insurance claim filers.

“Insurers pride themselves on their ability to help their customers recover from a loss.,” Lapine adds. “Front-line claims professionals often help customers identify potential coverage by asking questions about causes of a loss or by inquiring about other, perhaps unseen, property that could be damaged.”

In that regard, customers who feel the need to be guarded in responding to their adjusters could potentially miss out on additional compensation, he adds. “Also, claims adjusters, unlike most homeowners who have suffered a loss, deal with losses on a regular basis and may be aware of loss trends with certain types of construction materials or appliances that could have contributed to a loss,” Lapine says.

“Homeowners who withhold information could work against their own interests by not being completely forthcoming about a loss,” he adds.

One last tip: Be patient with your adjustor and bring good will to the table – both traits will be a big help getting your claim processed the way you want it.

“The average adjuster works an irregular schedule, with many hours worked at night, on weekends and on holidays, so providing an original receipt for a damaged item or a detailed estimate from a contractor will go a long way,” says Scott J. Congiusti, personal insurance claims director with HUB International Northeast, a top 10 global insurance broker. “Think of it this way: Would you walk up to the counter at Starbucks knowing what you would like to order, or would you wait until the barista asks for your order to start reading the menu? Your claim could also have a long line of angry folks behind you if you aren’t involved early in the claims process – contractors, engineers, suppliers and for policyholders in a condo or apartment, your neighbors and building managers.

“In my experience, policyholders that spent a little extra time during the beginning stages of a claim had a much better experience and settlement,” Congiusti adds.

Be part of a huge market

According to the Insurance Information Institute, insurers paid out more than $35 billion in 2013, which are the latest figures available, to cover customers for homeowners insurance losses.

With that much cash on the table, homeowners need to do everything they can to ensure a satisfactory home insurance claim experience.

See also: Bundling home and auto insurance could cut your costs by almost 25%

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