And…Number 10 of the "Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED!" Top Ten List!

June 21, 2008

Call a Public Adjuster to evaluate your claim!

A public adjuster (PA) is an adjuster that assists an insured who has had a loss in the preparation and presentation of the insurance claim. PAs perform very valuable services to the insured by consulting with the insured on options available in their recovery, filling out forms, helping prepare inventory lists, preparing estimates on structural damages, helping to find you a temporary place to live if you’re home is too damaged to live in, assisting in negotiations for settlement…and many more vital functions.

Public Adjusters work only on losses that involve property, such as homes, businesses and public buildings. Those are called “first party property claims.”

If you have a loss to your property that was caused by someone else, that is called a “third party property claim.” An example is when a vehicle runs into a dwelling, causing damage. In some situations, PAs will accept clients for third party losses. However, PAs cannot directly negotiate a third part claim. They can either advise the client as to the extent and value of the third party loss, or work with an attorney in presenting the claim.

Public Adjusters do not handle Bodily Injury (Casualty) losses, such as happen in an automobile accident. For assistance in those kinds of losses, consult a personal injury attorney.

There’s an easy way to understand the function of a Public Adjuster. Compare them to an attorney in a lawsuit, or a Certified Public Accountant or tax preparer when filing your tax forms with the Internal Revenue Service.

Let me ask you some questions:

If someone filed suit against you, would you represent yourself in court? Or, would you just call the plaintiff and say, “You’ve already got a lawyer. Why don’t we just use yours?” Neither choice protects you, does it?

Would you allow the IRS to prepare your tax return for you? If you did, would you expect the IRS to do its best to find every tax deduction for you so that you paid the least tax or got the biggest refund?

Do you file your own tax returns, or do you hire a tax preparation professional to prepare your tax return on your behalf?

Do you hire a tax professional because:

1. You don’t have time to do it yourself?
2. The IRS has written a tax code that is too complicated for a normal person to understand?
3. You usually get a larger refund, or smaller tax liability, when you use a professional…because the professional finds more deductions for you?
4. The fee you pay is usually far less than the additional money you save?

OK then…you’ve just found comparable reasons to use Public Adjusters.

1. You need your own experts to help you file your claim.
2. Policies are written by the insurance companies and are usually complicated and hard to understand. These policies are known as “contracts of adhesion,” because they inherently benefit the author of the contract, the insurance companies.
3. Many people are not willing to take the time to learn about their policies and learn the claims process.
4. Some people are too busy with work, and family, and life, to handle their own claim…especially in the turmoil immediately after a significantly large claim.
5. Public Adjusters usually help the policyholder collect hundreds or even thousands more dollars when the policyholder submits a claim. Their fees are a very small percentage of the amount of the settlement.

PAs usually have to be licensed adjusters, and are usually regulated by the Insurance Department of your state. Some states have special licenses for Public Adjusters. Call your state’s Insurance Department office to find out more information about what Public Adjusters can do in your state. You’ll find contact information for the Insurance Commissioners for all US states in the Appendix of the book.

Many of the people on the insurance company side take it very personally when a policyholder hires a public adjuster. Many truly believe that the policyholder should just trust the insurance company and adjuster to do the right thing, and not ever question them.

Adjusters and insurance company personnel sometimes play games with their own policyholders when the insured hires a PA. I’ve heard claims examiners refuse to speak with the insured by phone, telling the insured that, now that they are represented, all conversations have to go through the PA.

However, there’s nothing in your policy that states that. Public Adjusters are not attorneys, and the attorney/client relationship is not the same as the relationship between an insured and a Public Adjuster. If your adjuster or insurance company examiner tries to pull that stunt, he’s just doing it to delay and cause you problems. Call his supervisor or call the Department of Insurance.

Isn’t this amazing? The insurance company writes the policy, makes the rules hard to understand, and then gets mad at you when you hire someone to help you submit a claim. This would be like the Internal Revenue Service getting mad at you because you hired an accountant to help you prepare your tax return.

But it still happens, even though it makes no sense.

The environment is changing, though. Following the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, a newfound respect has grown within the insurance community regarding the value and professionalism of an accredited, licensed Public Adjuster.

Why do you think that the insurance companies and adjusters are not happy when you hire Public Adjusters? There’s one big reason. Usually, when a PA is involved, the dollar amount of the claim is higher than a claim without a PA.

When I first got into the claims adjusting field, the “old timers” told me horror stories about public adjuster. They told me how crooked they were, and how they grossly inflated the repair or replacement costs in claims. They told me stories of how PAs were liars and cheats and totally dishonest.

Yet, in my experience dealing with PAs in claims, from homeowner losses to large apartment building fires, to commercial and business losses, I have not met one public adjuster that I didn’t like as a person. I have not met a public adjuster who acted in an unprofessional manner. I have not met a public adjuster who wasn’t trying his best to make sure that his client…the policyholder who had a loss…got every dollar that was owed to them by the insurance company.

Public adjusters usually represent a client on a contingency basis. That simply means that they help present the claim documents to the insurance company and receive a percentage of the total amount of the insurance proceeds. The average percentage nationwide is 10%. The major incentive that makes the PA work hard is to help the insured get a larger settlement from the insurance company than the insured could have gotten by himself.

The PA is motivated to maximize your claim and expedite the claim adjustment process. It is a balance of making sure that the claim is packaged as completely as possible so you collect every dollar you are entitled to collect without creating unnecessary disputes with the insurance carrier. The PA does not charge for his services until after the claim is paid to you, so they are motivated to get it settled as quickly as possible. Their fee is usually all inclusive, with no additional out-of-pocket expenses. Most established Public adjusting firms can show you how their fee is absorbed in the adjustment process.

You should know that fees are negotiable with PAs. I’ve seen PA firms agree to substantial discounts from their standard 10% fee on huge commercial losses, and I regularly see 10% contracts on dwelling and small commercial losses. Caveat emptor…let the buyer beware. Just be aware that if the PA plunks down a contract in front of you with a blank space where the fee percentage is supposed to be, DON’T SIGN IT!! Negotiate the fee you’re willing to pay BEFORE signing the contract. Then let your attorney review it before you sign.

Some state’s Department of Insurance regulations cover Public Adjuster fees, and the maximum amounts they can charge for their services. I don’t think that’s any of the State’s business. For the most part, states do not regulate the fees that independent adjusters charge the insurance companies. Why regulate PA fees? I believe that the policy holder and the PA should be able to set whatever fee they can agree upon.

Regardless of my opinion, you need to check with your state’s Department of Insurance for this information if you’re considering hiring a PA.

You’ve heard of personal injury attorneys being called “ambulance chasers?” Well, sometimes PAs have to be “fire truck chasers.” It is quite normal for PAs to listen in to fire and police scanners and follow the fire trucks out to the location of the fire. It is quite normal for PAs to go door to door in a tornado or hurricane damaged area and solicit business. There is nothing wrong with this, since it may be the only way to contact victims after a fire or windstorm. That being said, the PA should always be professional, respecting your time and your personal situation.

A professional public adjuster can offer valuable assistance in the preparation of your claim, or even represent you in the presentation of the claim. Hiring a PA early in the claim process can help control the situation and quickly begin the recovery process. The PA can control over-zealous restoration contractors and pushy adjusters. The PA can accelerate and smooth the claim process by walking through the loss with the insurance company’s adjuster so they agree on the scope of the loss. This one process can make a huge difference in how quickly your claim is settled, and many times, prevent disputes later on. You may decide that, in your situation, it makes sense to hire a PA in the first 24 hours after your loss.

If you wish to consider hiring a public adjuster, you should treat them just like you treat the adjuster and contractor. Call two or three public adjusters. Meet them, go over the details of your claim, and listen to their proposal of how they are going to represent you.

Get referrals of satisfied customers with phone numbers that you can call and verify. Then, spend the time checking them out. Call the Better Business Bureau about them. Find out if they have a good reputation.

Once you’ve checked them out, and if you want to retain a PA, hire the one who checks out best.

Remember what I told you in Chapter Six, “Should I Get a Lawyer?” Don’t sign anything without having your attorney review the document FIRST. But, having said that, remember that there may be many things that need immediate attention, like contents removal, emergency board-up, and temporary family accommodations. This means that you should get your PA contract in front of your attorney immediately!

If you’ve hired a Public Adjuster, you should treat him just the same as the insurance company adjuster. See Chapter Four, Don‘t Be In A Hurry, with regard to writing down everything you discuss with him. Keep an accurate record of the date and time of all of your conversations, and what was discussed. Record the conversations if possible.

Insist that the PA give you copies of every document he generates on your behalf. Insist on copies of all letters and correspondences between the PA and the adjuster or insurance company.

Your PA will likely have you sign an assignment form, in which you agree to have the PA’s name placed on the settlement checks along with yours.

There are only six states in the USA that require the PA to be included as a payee on an insurance company settlement check: Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Wyoming, Illinois and Kentucky. That means that if the insurance company doesn’t want to be cooperative and place the PA’s name on the check, they might not be cooperative unless the law requires them to do so.

In summary, the Public Adjuster will do most of the things for you that are found in this book regarding proper documentation and submission of your claim.

REMEMBER THIS IMPORTANT POINT!!

You can do all of the things that a Public Adjuster does on your behalf if you’ll follow the steps I’ve written in this book. This will require a lot of work on your part. If you follow my recommendations, you will assuredly collect hundreds or even thousands more dollars in your claim settlement. However, in my opinion, you will collect even more money from your insurance company when you use the services of a Public Adjuster.

For those of you who do not want to expend the effort to handle your own claim from start to finish, and are willing to pay someone to do these tasks for you, then a professional Public Adjuster will perform a tremendous service for you.

Finally, I recommend that you check out the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (www.napia.com) for a listing of accredited public adjusting firms in your state. At the website, you’ll find helpful links, articles of interest, and information on how individual public adjusters are licensed and accredited through the organization.

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#9 of the Top Ten List of Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED! – Keeping Your Claims Diary!

June 15, 2008

This article is excerpted from by book “Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED!”

Recorded statements are a normal part of the claims process. Claims adjusters usually like to get a recorded statement from all the parties in the loss early in the claims process. That way, the details of the claim are still fresh in everyone’s minds, and can be documented more accurately. Don’t be nervous about being recorded.

If the claims adjuster calls and requests a recorded statement over the telephone, politely tell him that you prefer to meet with him in person. The best scenario for you would be to meet the adjuster at your attorney’s office, and give the recorded statement in the presence of the attorney. Even uncooperative or moody adjusters seem to be on their best behavior in the presence of an attorney.

If the insurance adjuster or examiner only does recorded statements by phone, simply have the adjuster do a three-way conference call with you and your attorney.

On an in-person interview, the adjuster will have his portable tape recorder with which he will record the interview. You should also bring a portable tape recorder and tape the interview for your own protection. You can buy a hand-sized cassette recorder at any electronics store or discount department store…even major drug store chains for less than $40.00. They use standard cassette tapes and batteries. The microcassette recorders work great, too, and cost about the same. Make sure that you have plenty of fresh batteries and a few cassette tapes with you at the interview.

When the adjuster is recording your statement, don’t OFFER any information. Answer the question that he asked, and no more.

Remember that some questions do not deserve an answer.

Have you ever been in an interview, or some social situation, and someone asked you a question that made you uncomfortable? And you ANSWERED the question so they didn’t think you were impolite? Then later you hated yourself for being a doormat?

People feel a need to be nice. Adjusters take advantage of people’s need to be nice. Adjusters know that most people will answer whatever questions seem reasonable, even if the question is not relevant to the claim. Personal questions that do not have relevance to your claim should not be answered. Questions about your income, or asking for your Social Security number, may not be relevant to the claim. Questions about your income, for example, are not appropriate unless you are making a claim for lost wages.

One of the reasons that adjusters ask for your Social Security number is so they can look you up on a database called Insurance Service Office (ISO) Claimsearch. If you want to see what the Claimsearch homepage looks like, go to: https://claimsearch.iso.com/index.asp

Claimsearch is a searchable database that shows if you’ve ever had an insurance claim before. With your Social Security number, adjusters and claims examiners can call up all the data about you…WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION.

If there’s a question that the adjuster asks that you don’t feel comfortable answering, politely reply “I’d rather not answer that question.” Sometimes adjusters ask inappropriate questions. Make sure that the adjuster sticks to the details of the accident or loss. If you’re in an attorney’s office at the time of the recorded statement, he’ll help the adjuster stay on track.

My belief is that you, the policyholder or claimant, should record every telephone conversation and face-to-face conversation that you have with anyone about your claim. The same electronics stores that sell the cassette recorders will stock a “pick-up” microphone that plugs into your cassette recorder and has a suction cup that sticks to your telephone handset. The quality of the sound is usually quite good.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that you should do something illegal or unethical. You need to check your state’s statutes and laws about recording conversations. Some states do not allow it unless both parties give consent. Some states allow it if only one of the parties is aware that the conversation is being recorded.

    Know the law, and know your rights.

Don’t be surprised if some people refuse to have their conversations recorded. That doesn’t mean that you should cave in to their lack of cooperation. You should insist on the recording, or politely refuse to speak with that person. But, it should tell you something about that person if he or she refuses to be recorded.

Be in control of when and where you accept phone calls about your claim. I’ve seen some adjusters that try to keep the insured off balance by making calls at unusual times, like early morning or late night. If you’re not ready to record the call when the phone rings, tell the person that it’s not convenient to speak right then and make an appointment to call him back. Always keep your appointments.

I can imagine that some of you reading this article think that this author is some sort of paranoid kook. Please let me assure you that I am. But I’ve seen countless situations in which an adjuster took a recorded statement, and then wrote a statement summary that wasn’t anything like the information on the tape. I’ve seen police officers fill out an accident report, and describe the accident completely wrongly. I’ve seen court testimony where the adjuster and the insured are questioned about an incident, and their stories are completely different.

Recordings of conversations put all of that to rest.

After you have a problem with a person who lies to you, or about you, it’s too late to record them then.

The old adage is, “better safe than sorry.” Sorry can cost you thousands of dollars.

For more information go to: http://www.insurance-claim-secrets.com

Copyright 2008 Russell D. Longcore. All Rights Reserved.


#8 of the Top Ten List from Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED! – Get An Advance Payment

June 15, 2008

This article is excerpted from my book “Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED!”

Often, when an insured has a loss of significant size, such as a flood, tornado, wildfire, hurricane loss or a big water damage loss, an advance payment of a portion of the anticipated settlement is issued by the insurance company. This situation also happens regularly when a business has a loss and needs money up front.

It is a customary and widely accepted practice for the insurance company to issue an advance payment in this type of instance. Be aware that there’s nothing in the standard property insurance policy that deals with advances. It is usually just a courtesy that the insurance company extends to their policyholder.

However, they don’t usually offer to do it. You have to request the advance.

Here’s an example. Joe Smith’s house is hit by lightning, and a fire damages most of the house. Joe’s policy has Building limits of $100,000, Contents limits of $50,000, ALE limits of $20,000. The house can be repaired for $70,000, which is less than the policy limits. However, the adjuster expects that the Contents loss will exceed the policy limits of $50,000, and the ALE loss will be $15,000. The adjuster sends in his first report to the insurance company, and tells them to expect the loss to be approximately $135,000 on these three parts of coverage.

The insurance company could easily issue an initial advance payment of $25,000 to $35,000 for Contents and ALE, and $40,000 to $50,000 for the Dwelling loss.

So, what do you do if your Contents are damaged and you need the most basic things, like a change of clothes and shoes? What if you need to have a contractor secure the building and put tarps on the roof to keep further rain out of the building? Most people do not have tens of thousands of dollars just lying in their bank accounts that could be used to begin repairs, or begin replacing personal property. That’s when the insurance company issues an advance.

It’s best to make your request in writing. Even if it’s just a hand-written letter, it’s best if it’s in writing. Write or type your request, keep a copy for your records, and give the copy to your adjuster. It’s also a good idea to send a duplicate copy to the claims department of your insurance company. Send it by overnight courier or certified mail. NEVER rely on the adjuster to ask for an advance on your behalf. He might get delayed with other work and it could be days before he asks. DO IT YOURSELF.

Take control of your claim, my friend! Request your advance EARLY in the process!

For more information go to: http://www.insurance-claim-secrets.com

Copyright 2008 Russell D. Longcore. All rights reserved.


#7 of the Top Ten List from Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED – Dealing With Adjusters

June 15, 2008

This article is excerpted from the book “Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED!”

Have you ever thought about what kind of service you should expect from the adjuster when you file a claim?

A professional, intelligent, honest adjuster is a pleasure to work with. He treats you with respect and gives his best effort to complete his investigation as quickly as possible. He is patient, knowing that you are not familiar with the claims process. He understands how upset you might be about your claim. He senses that you have already been frightened by the loss itself, and now may be frightened about the claims process.

He explains the process to you before he begins it, and invites you to be an active participant, not a spectator. He sits down with you and reads your policy with you, and explains it as he goes. He makes sure that you have his contact phone numbers, so you can get your questions answered when he’s not there. He answers his phone messages promptly.

The professional claims adjuster must have empathy for people. I’m not sure if that is a skill that can be taught with a book or a class. Some of the empathy must come from a person’s upbringing. Compassion for another human being who is hurting or afraid must come from deep within a person. Even having said this, it is not unusual for a person to have his compassion and empathy stretched thin by the things that happen in life.

Haven’t you heard a story from a friend or relative about how badly the insurance company treated them when they had an insurance claim? I think most people have.

In today’s world, poor customer service is nearly accepted as the norm. Sadly, we are overjoyed and amazed when we get good customer service. We’re astounded and tell all our friends when we get great customer service.

Most people I’ve met who had a loss, and filed a claim, never thought for a minute about what kind of service they would get from the adjuster that the insurance company assigned to handle their claim. But, I’m writing today to make a couple of points that will be CRUCIAL to you collecting all the claims settlement money you’re entitled to collect:

1. The pool of qualified, trained adjusters is drying up.

I still read industry magazines. In the latest edition of Claims Magazine, and in the latest edition of Best’s Review, there were articles stating that the insurance claims adjusters nationwide, as a group, were marching on toward retirement years. They went on to say that there is a huge concern in the insurance industry that the most capable, most experienced adjusters are leaving the industry, and that there is a growing shortage of experienced adjusters in the North American market today. The articles also said that these days, insurance companies are spending less time and money training adjusters.

If the insurance companies are worried, YOU as a consumer should be DOUBLE WORRIED!!

Why?

Because inexperienced adjusters won’t be as thorough in the claims process. They won’t have years of experience to fall back on. They won’t know policy language and the claims process as well as the “old guys.”

Have you heard the old saying, “The Devil is in the details?” I’ve said over and over that the claims process is where the devil hides. Most of my book is about teaching consumers that they must educate THEMSELVES about the claims process. The claims process is NOT in the policy. The insurance companies will not tell you…the consumer…about the process, because if they did, the insurance settlement amounts would skyrocket!

You want a couple examples?

First: You’re in a traffic accident, and your car is damaged. The adjuster will likely tell you to go get three estimates from three different repair shops. They’ll want to pick the lowest one, or the middle one as the agreed estimate. However, there’s NOT ONE WORD in your policy that forces you to get three estimates. That is a waste of YOUR time. You should get an estimate from the repair shop of YOUR choice, not the insurance company’s choice. Then, the adjuster should work from your estimate. By the way, if your insurance company has “approved repair facilities,” you should know that they work for a huge discount, and regularly use cheap, aftermarket auto parts…which leads me to the next example.

Second: The insurance industry is totally sold on “aftermarket” parts for auto repair. These parts may fit your car, and may work on your car, but they are of inferior quality to the original equipment manufactured parts the automaker used to build your car. You should NEVER allow the insurance company to insist on aftermarket parts to repair your car. There is NOTHING in your policy that gives the insurance company permission to use cheap parts to repair your car. In fact, most policies guarantee you “like kind and quality” repairs. Aftermarket auto parts save the insurance company bunches of money, but only at your expense.

2. Knowing that the talent pool is shrinking, it’s more important than EVER to make sure your adjuster is qualified to handle your claim.

In Chapter 7 of my book, “Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED!” I wrote at length about the qualifications of an adjuster. I also wrote about what level of service you should expect from the insurance adjuster who handles your claim.

You should interview your adjuster and find out his education and claims experience. If you do not believe that your adjuster has the education and experience to handle your claim, you should call his supervisor and request that your claim be transferred to a more experienced adjuster. Further, I say in Chapter 7 that if the adjuster has less than two years’ experience, ask for another adjuster. If the insurance company refuses, call your state’s Department of Insurance and file a complaint.

Don’t allow yourself to be bullied by the insurance companies. But, that will require YOU to take responsibility for YOUR OWN education.

If you take control of your claims, you WILL add hundreds or even thousands more dollars to your claim settlements!

For more information, go to: http://www.insurance-claim-secrets.com

Copyright 2008 by Russell D. Longcore


#6 of the Top Ten List from Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED! – Open a Checking Account

June 15, 2008

This article is excerpted from the book “Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED!”

One of the many things that policyholders don’t think about when they have a claim is the IRS tax treatment of the settlement money. I’m not a tax accountant, or any kind of accountant, so I’m not about to practice accounting or tax law here in this article. But, the one thing I know that will help protect you from the wrath of the IRS is to open a special checking account which will only be used for your insurance claim replacements and repairs.

Once the insurance company issues you the first check, go to your bank and open a separate account just for handling claims issues. When you receive the payments for the claim, deposit them in this account. ONLY use this account for the expenses of the claim. When the claim is completed, close the account.

Normally, when the insurance company issues advance payments against the ALE or Contents losses. the checks will be made payable just to you, because there’s no mortgage on your contents. So, those checks can be deposited directly into your claim account.

DO NOT DEPOSIT THE SETTLEMENT CHECKS IN YOUR NORMAL CHECKING OR SAVINGS ACCOUNT. Keeping a separate account for insurance claim related expenditures makes it so much easier to keep good records.

When you ask for an advance against your Dwelling coverage, the insurance company will need to know the name and address of your mortgage company. They will issue the check jointly in your name and the name of the lender. They may send the check to you. If they do, the lender will likely require you to endorse the check and give the check to them. Then, they will set up a system of payments. To find out more about that system of payments, contact the Escrow Department of your Mortgage Company. Every lender is different. Find out what your lender plans to do by contacting them and asking them.

The same procedure will likely apply when the insurance company issues checks for repairs to the dwelling (or even a settlement for a car wreck). Anything you own that also has a lienholder or mortgage holder will be issued jointly in the name of the owner and the name of the lienholder. If you own your dwelling or vehicle free and clear, the insurance company will issue your settlement check only in the name of the owner.

ONLY USE THIS MONEY FOR THE CLAIM. Don’t take a weekend vacation to Las Vegas with the money, or buy yourself that new motorcycle you’ve always wanted. However, there are circumstances in which you can use the money for whatever you like. You just won’t collect all you should. Read Chapter 17, “Deduct This!”

There. I’ve said it in a number of different ways. Don’t comingle your personal funds and your insurance settlement funds. Keep them entirely separate and you’ll have a much more pleasant claims experience.

For more information go to: http://www.insurance-claim-secrets.com

Copyright 2008, Russell D. Longcore. All Rights Reserved.


#5 of the Top Ten List – Start a Document File!

June 14, 2008

Had an insured loss? IT’S TIME TO GET ORGANIZED!!

How about a loss that wasn’t your fault, like a car wreck? IT’S STILL TIME TO GET ORGANIZED!!

This article is excerpted from the book “Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED!”

Start A File

You must create a file immediately after your loss. Go to an office supply store and buy one of those cardboard accordion-like expandable folders that can hold lots of paperwork. Even a cardboard box with a lid on it is acceptable for keeping everything inside it. You don’t have to be fancy, just keep everything in one place. Your file also must be portable, so that rules out using a filing cabinet at home.

During the recovery process, place the following in your file:

A. Current copy of your policy. If you don’t have a copy handy, call your agent and have him get you a copy immediately.

B. Copies of all written correspondences (don’t forget emails) between you and ANYONE regarding your claim.

C. Phone, fax and email address record for everyone involved in the claim.

D. Photos you have taken of the damages…and the repairs. This includes videotapes or still photos of the damages that you took immediately after the loss.

E. A cassette tape of your own recorded statement about how the loss occurred. (See Chapter Twenty Five, Recorded Statements.)

F. A cassette tape recorder, batteries and spare tapes for recording EVERY conversation that you have with the adjuster, claims examiner, appraiser, engineer, attorney, contractor…ANYONE with whom you discuss this claim.

G. Receipt envelope. ALL receipts pertaining to this loss should be in that envelope. NEVER give the insurance company your original receipts. They should get copies.

H. Expense log: emergency services, living expenses, mileage, even extra child care, or boarding your pets…ANYTHING that you have to pay for that relates to this loss.

I. City, County, and State Building Code requirements in writing.

J. Copy of your state Department of Insurance statutes on Bad Faith Claims, or Unfair Claims Practices. (See the Appendix for a list of all 50 states’ insurance departments, and their phone numbers. You can also find this free information at my website, http://www.insurance-claim-secrets.com ).

K. Waiver of Lien forms (See Chapter Thirty, Settling Your Claim). These forms are also downloadable at the website.

L. Worker’s list. A list of everyone who works on your home, who they work for, and what work they’re doing. Taking their photo would be a great idea, also. Why? You could have lots of strangers working on your home. Would you normally allow strangers to walk around inside your house without knowing who they are?

M. Professional reports, such as an Engineer report, Cause and Origin report, Fire or Police report, etc.

N. Copy of all estimates.

O. Copy of all repair contracts. NO WORK WITHOUT SIGNED CONTRACTS. Also, contractors occasionally find hidden damages that will require supplemental repair costs. YOU are responsible for these costs, even though the insurance company agrees to pay. The insurance company doesn’t own your house…you do. GET IT IN WRITING.

P. Copies of any advance payment checks you receive from the insurance company.

Q. If you have a contractor, or ANYONE who works on your damaged property, get a copy of their insurance certificates that show their liability insurance is in effect. No insurance, no work. Period. You CANNOT afford to have a worker get hurt on your premises and file a claim against you for liability or medical expenses.

Keep a Journal

Buy a journal book, or just simply use a standard sized legal pad as your claims journal. This means that you should write down EVERYTHING that happens in your claim.

Write down every phone conversation: Date, time, phone number, who you talked to, what was said.

Write down every meeting: Date, time, length of meeting, people in attendance, what was discussed.

Write it down WHEN IT HAPPENS. Don’t rely on your memory a few days later. You’ll be sorry if you try that.

Once again, there’s no downside for you if you handle your claim like a professional. Think about this…do you just blithely allow your employer to send you a payroll check each week for whatever amount he chooses? If your paycheck was wrong, you’d challenge it, wouldn’t you? If the waiter at your favorite restaurant brought you the check, and it was $20.00 too much, you’d argue about it, wouldn’t you? Well, those numbers are chicken feed in comparison to the THOUSANDS of dollars in an insurance claim.

Don’t just accept the insurance company’s settlement without MAKING SURE it’s correct!

For more information, go to: http://www.insurance-claim-secrets.com

Copyright 2008, Russell D. Longcore. All Rights Reserved.


#4 of the Top Ten List – Take LOTS of Photos!

June 14, 2008

This article is excerpted from the book, “Insurance Claim Secrets REVEALED!”

Want to know why camera work is so important when you have a claim?

A. A photo is worth a thousand words. (I think I’ve heard that before)

B. Photos trigger memories, and remind you of building and contents items that were destroyed or damaged.

C. Time is of the essence. If you’re adjuster can’t get to your property for a couple days (or weeks in hurricane losses), and you need to protect your property, you can carefully photograph the areas that you are protecting before you cover them or alter them. That way, you’ve preserved evidence of the damages.

D. On occasion, there are disputes between you and the adjuster on what was damaged, or how much damage occurred. Adjuster like to write estimates to clean and repair stuff rather than replace it. Your photo of the damage may be the proof you’ll need to get paid correctly.

Take a camera, lots of film (or disposable cameras) and a pad of paper. Photograph ALL DAMAGE, INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR. TAKE PHOTOS OF CONTENTS DAMAGE. There might be hidden damage…don’t worry about that. Just get photos of the damage in plain sight. On the pad of paper, make a log of every shot you took. Don’t wait for the adjuster to do take the photos. He might be days or weeks from inspecting your property. Your insurance contract requires you to mitigate your damage.

If you can, get hold of a video camera and a couple of video tapes. You might need a floodlight or other very powerful battery-powered light. If your dwelling is safe to walk through, take video footage of every room in the house where there is damage. Take footage from every angle in every room. Make sure you take footage of your damaged contents. Shoot footage inside closets…in open drawers, inside boxes, on bookshelves, inside cabinets, in the garage where lots of junk is stored. Take shots of all four sides of your home from the outside. If you have exterior damage, shoot it. Take footage of the debris in the yard, especially if it has contents items that the fire department threw out in the yard. After a tornado, your property might be strewn all over the place. Shoot it. After a flood, lots of stuff may have been hauled out and dropped in the yard. Shoot it.

If you can’t get a video camera, then use a digital camera and take still photos. If you can’t get a digital camera, use a 35mm camera. Use the camera in your cell phone. Heck, use disposable cameras. JUST TAKE THE PHOTOS AND GET YOUR DAMAGES ON FILM!!

NEVER give your film negatives or original videotape to the adjuster. Give copies of the photos and videos, if they ask for them. Keep track of your expenses for photos and videos…you can recover that cost from your insurance policy.

I promise that you’ll never be sorry you photographed your loss. Think of it…there’s no downside for you. The insurance company will reimburse you for your photos, and it will help you prove your loss.

But, if you don’t take the photos, there’s no upside for you. You are leaving your financial future in the hands of an adjuster you don’t know.

Which sounds best to you?

For more information, go to: http://www.insurance-claim-secrets.com

Copyright 2008, Russell D. Longcore. All rights reserved.