If you sustained damage to your home or property by fire, water or some other cause, here is a list of 10 things you should know and do.
1) Report the loss to your insurer as soon as possible
Early reporting can lead to an earlier fix. Conversely, by delaying you could jeopardize your coverage or prejudice the insurer in their investigation of the loss.
2) Take photographs and document the loss
It can often be difficult to explain what the damage looked like or where it was coming from. Photos can often be the key in these cases. Also, make notes of discussions and keep records and receipts.
3) Ask the insurer for a certified copy of the insurance policy and declarations pages
In order to determine if you have coverage, and how much coverage you have, you will need to have the insurance policy reviewed in detail. Often an insurer’s letter may not contain all of the information in your policy.
4) Put together a list of contents or items
You will likely need to inventory each and every item that was damaged or destroyed in the loss. You will need to compile a list of the items age, its value and the cost to replace it. The internet is an extremely helpful tool in finding comparable items.
5) Consider hiring a public adjuster to handle your claim
Insurance companies will assign adjusters with experience in property loss claims to make decisions about your claim. Proving your claim can be a time intensive and confusing process. A public adjuster is a licenced professional hired to represent you as the property owner. They can level the playing field.
6) Prepare a Proof of Loss
Most insurance companies will require you to swear a document advising of the cause of the loss and the amounts being claimed. This document is called a “Proof of Loss”. The document needs to be accurate and is used to determine the validity and amount of your claim. Until it is completed the insurance company is not obligated to pay your claim.
7) You do not need to use the insurer’s preferred contractors
Often after a loss an insurer will call in its preferred vendors to provide estimates and repair the property. You are however free to choose whoever you want to perform the repairs. In some cases getting your own estimates and opinions is recommended.
8) If you disagree with the amount that the insurer is offering you have a right to dispute it
You have the right to request an Appraisal to determine the amount that the insurer has to pay following a loss. Typically, both you and the insurer will have estimates or experts on the amount of the loss. At Appraisal an umpire will help decide the amount of the loss.
9) There are time limits for making claims
The insurance policy and the laws in Ontario set out time restrictions for when a claim or lawsuit has to be made. These can differ depending on each case. There are also time limits on how long an insurer has to pay following a loss or how soon you have to rebuild after a loss to get full coverage.
10) In rare cases insurers can be forced to pay additional amounts for mishandling a claim
Insurance companies are required to treat their customers fairly, honestly and in good faith. In some cases, if an insurer’s conduct is egregious or heavy handed, a Court could award punitive or aggravated damages against the insurer. Courts can also award money for mental distress.