Filing a Home Insurance Claim
Most people will never file a claim under their Homeowner's policy. But if you have to file a claim, it is important to understand the claim process and your rights and responsibilities.
If You Have a Claim
- Report loss or damage to your insurance agent or insurance company as soon as possible;
- Take precautions if the damages require you to leave your home.
- Secure your property;
- Lock all windows and doors;
- Survey the damages and take photographs or videos of damaged areas, if possible, and make them available to your insurance company;
- Make temporary repairs to protect your home and personal property from further damage. If you make permanent repairs before the insurance company inspects the damage, your claim may be denied. Keep all receipts and take photographs of the damage, before and after emergency repairs, to submit with your claim. You may be reimbursed for the expenses associated with temporary repairs;
- Study and know your policy limits and coverages. If you do not understand your coverage, ask your insurance agent or company representative to explain. If your policy was destroyed in your loss, contact your insurance agent or company to get a replacement copy. Usually, there is a nominal charge for another copy of the insurance policy contract;
- In some cases, the insurance company will require you to complete a claim form. You will be asked to estimate the actual cash value of the household items you lost and the cost to repair the damage to your home. If you have replacement cost coverage on your house and/or contents, you may need to include an estimate of the costs to make repairs with new materials and/or replacement items. If you have maintained a household inventory, this process will be much easier and go much more quickly. Be sure to find out from the insurance company if you should include sales tax in the cost estimates, and whether you should use exact costs, or if you can round off numbers to the nearest dollar;
- The insurance company will assign an adjuster to assess damage to your property and estimate the cost of repair. If you don’t hear from your adjuster in a reasonable length of time, contact your insurance agent or company again. Be present when the adjuster inspects your property;
- The settlement, which is the amount of money the insurance company offers for your loss, is based on the adjuster’s estimate. If you disagree with the estimate, contact the insurance company to explain your reasoning. They may be willing to make adjustments, or you may wish to ask a contractor or other professional to obtain your own estimate;
- Beware of fly-by-night contractors. Get more than one bid and hire a local reputable contractor to do the repair work;
- Make sure a written agreement between you and your insurance company has been agreed to before starting repairs.
Claim Time Frames
In Kansas, an insurance company has an obligation to investigate a filed claim, whether first or third party, within 30 days from when it was reported. If the insurance company needs additional time to conduct an investigation, it shall every 45 days thereafter sent to the insurance or claimant a letter setting forth the reasons additional time is needed to conclude the investigation. It is in the best interest of the company to investigate any loss promptly so that valuable evidence is not lost or destroyed. However, there are no provisions requiring a company to pay your claim within a certain period of time.
Contact the Kansas Insurance Department
Talk to your insurance company or agent first, because many claim problems are resolved at this level. If you have tried unsuccessfully to resolve the problem with your insurance company or agent, please contact the Kansas Insurance Department:
- Toll-free in Kansas: 1-800-432-2484
- Fax: 785-296-5806
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- File an On-line complaint against a company
Should it be necessary to file a written complaint with the Kansas Insurance Department, be sure to include the following information to speed processing of your inquiry:
- Include your name, address and daytime phone number
- State your case by giving a full explanation of the problem and what type of insurance is involved.
- Provide the name of your insurance company, policy number, name and address.
- Supply copies of documentation you have to support your case.
- State what has been done to resolve your problem including who you have talked with and what you were told.
- Keep a copy of your letter to the Kansas Insurance Department for reference.
While the Kansas Insurance Department has recovered millions of dollars for Kansas consumers, the Department cannot force any insurance company to pay a claim if the company, in good faith, believes as a matter of law or fact that it does not owe the money in question. You may wish to hire legal counsel if a company persists in denying what you believe is a valid claim.
When do I need a lawyer and how do I find one?
See the Kansas Bar Association's Kansas Lawyer Referral Service for information, or call 1-800-928-3111.