Waking up to a burst pipe or other types of property damage can be extremely stressful. What do you do with all of the damaged items? Who do you call? How fast can you clean up? There are plenty of questions running through homeowners’ minds when faced with this type of crisis.
Your instincts may tell you to clean everything up immediately, then call your insurance company. Unfortunately, this is a big mistake. When you experience property damage, you need to do what you can to stop the damage from getting worse. The law calls this “mitigating damages.” After stopping the damage from getting worse, documentation of the incident is often far more important than cleaning it up. It is a balancing act.
Read through these top four mistakes in order to get the right coverage from your insurance company — fast.
Not Having a Home Inventory
The first mistake starts before property damage even occurs. If you do not have a full inventory of everything in your home, you will have a hard time proving how much damage you suffered, especially for personal property, as opposed to the structure itself
Home inventories do not have to be an overwhelming process. Begin by taking photos and videos of your property. Software programs can help you correctly document everything in your home, making it easy to show your insurance company what was lost in the damage.
Failing to Document the Incident
Once the property damage occurs, take pictures and video of the damage. Your insurer will require this kind of documentation in order to prove that you really did suffer damage and assess the extent of it. Later, it may also be important and very useful to have an expert assess all of the damage and the cost of repair and replacement. Insurance policies often cover more than people think. Experts in documenting and valuing the damage use computer programs that provide very detailed reports in a format that insurance companies are used to looking at.
Tossing Damaged Materials
While it is understandable that you may want to clean up the mess to make the space livable again, be careful. Your policy may require that you make damaged material available for inspection. Additionally, material may contain valuable clues about what happened to your property.
Unless you absolutely have to, don’t toss it. And if you do, make sure you take extensive videos and photos of the soon-to-be discarded objects. If you feel you have to get rid of the damaged material, provide notice to the insurance company and a reasonable amount of time for the insurer to inspect the material, In case of a dispute this simple step can protect you later.
Providing Your Insurer with Ammunition against You
Logic would dictate that when something like this happens, you should reach out to your insurance company as soon as possible. While that is sort of true, “as soon as possible” is a term with a bit of flexibility.
Why? Because it is all too easy to inadvertently say something that could be used to deny the claim when speaking to insurers. If you do call your insurers, remember that you have an obligation to tell the truth — you don’t have an obligation to guess.
Insurance policies contain many complicated provisions that can provide or take away coverage. Guessing about what caused the damage or using a common expression to describe something with a technical definition can give the insurance company a reason to deny your claim.
Our advice? Before making that call, get an insurance attorney to represent you. At Florida Professional Law Group, our in-house estimators have worked for the other side, and so have our attorneys. That means we know the ways insurance companies try to deny, delay, and underpay claims. Our team is also capable of inspecting the damage and compiling a detailed report, including the cost to replace or repair, in the format that the insurance company wants to see. You’ll level the playing field when you put the power of our insurance law attorneys to work for you.
Property damage can be stressful, but you have support. Reach out to the team at Florida Professional Law Group to get the coverage you deserve.