Dealing With Insurance Adjusters After Water Damage (5 Pro Tips)
Dealing with an insurance adjuster after water damage sometimes feels like dealing with a detective.
When they come out to inspect your property, they’ll look for evidence of where the damage is, how it happened, and whether or not your policy covers it.
You pay your insurance every month, so why does it feel like you’re in the hot seat?
Not all insurance adjusters are out to get you, but at the end of the day, it’s their job to protect the insurance company’s bottom line and determine the least amount of money they’re legally obligated to pay you.
To help you avoid low-ball offers and get the payment you deserve, we created this step-by-step guide on dealing with adjusters after water damage has ruined your home.
Pro Tip #1: Don’t Be Intimidated By The Adjuster
As part of the water damage claim process, an insurance adjuster will be sent to your house to assess the water damage and write an estimate or denial based on what they find. Unfortunately, they’re going to be looking for any reason to deny your claim, like poor home maintenance on your part.
Take a deep breath. There’s no reason to be intimidated.
Remember, you and your insurance provider entered a legally binding agreement where they promised to cover certain water damage accidents. If your insurance company is refusing to cover a legitimate water damage claim, that means they’re not acting in “good faith” and are liable for a lawsuit.
Pro Tip #2: Know Your Policy
Before you even file a claim in the first place, you should review your policy to see what’s covered and what’s excluded.
For instance, most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover water damage from natural flooding or from lack of maintenance, like failing to address a leaking pipe.
Insurance policies aren’t the easiest of reading materials. If you’re having trouble deciphering the details on your homeowners insurance policy, you should ask your agent to explain any ambiguities.
Pro Tip #3: Make the Insurance Adjuster’s Job Easier
Insurance adjusters have to handle several claims a week, and the number can go up tenfold if a storm or other natural disaster struck the area.
You, however, only have to deal with one claim. Before they arrive, you can prepare ahead of time— and have a hand in getting the most out of your losses— by doing the following:
- Take photos of both interior and exterior property damage. Make a list of the damages you want to show the adjuster, like cracked drywall and mold patches.
- Provide photos of what the property looked like before, if you have them on hand.
- Call the realtor that assisted you in the purchase of the property and ask for the property inspector’s report and appraisal.
- If you refinanced your home, call and ask your lender for copies of any recent appraisals.
- If you had to make emergency repairs before the adjuster arrived, keep receipts of those expenses.
- Create an itemized list of damaged belongings. This list should include photos of the item, a description, the brand, the cost and copies of receipts. Do this for everything in your house, down to the rolls of toilet paper in your bathroom. If you don’t have receipts, check to see if your bank can track the charges.
BONUS TIP: The more information you have on your home’s preloss condition, the better your chance of receiving better compensation. If the item is not listed in the initial estimate, the cost to cover it will not be listed in the final estimate total.
Pro Tip #4: Choose Your Words Wisely When Speaking With the Insurance Company
Let’s start off by saying, we’re absolutely not advocating for anybody to lie to their insurance company (see: insurance fraud A.K.A. jail time); However, you should really think about how you phrase things if you want to don’t want to have any problems with your claim later on.
Examples of What You Should and Shouldn’t Say
Don’t say “I think” when your trying to explain the water damage situation to your insurance agent, instead, you should say “I don’t know”.
Avoid the word
“flooded”.There is a very specific definition of “flood” in the insurance industry, and most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover water damage due to flooding.
Actually, you shouldn’t guess at all if you’re not 100% certain about the cause of water damage.
For example, when the adjuster arrives you don’t want to say “I think the water damage is from some sort of construction defect”. That might be an exclusion under your policy, so you’ve essentially give then insurance company an out when you don’t even know if that was the true cause or not.
You should also avoid the word
“flooded”. There is a very specific definition of “flood” in the insurance industry, and most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover water damage due to flooding. In the insurance world, flooding is defined as external, ground water entering a building structure (e.g. hurricanes, tsunamis, river overflows, etc). This entirely different from a home flood caused by an internal source of water, like a washing machine overflow.
For instance, never say “My basement is flooded”. Instead, you should say “my basement is full of water.”
Another tip: when you call them, don’t ask “my house has water damage, what’s my deductible?”. Let’s say you decided not to go ahead and file the claim because it actually costs less to pay out of pocket to fix the damage yourself. Oops! You already slipped and told them about the damage, which could go on your record. Instead, you should ask “how much is my deductible?”.
Pro Tip #5: Don’t Settle Too Early
Most insurance companies initially provide a low offer, because they expect you to accept it and not put up much of a fight. It’s the oldest negotiation tactic in the book and it’s a win-win for the insurance company.
If you accept it, then then insurance company avoids a long, back-and-forth, negotiation process, all while saving money. If you reject it, they might have a slightly higher offer they’ve been keeping in their back pocket.
This is where having a water damage restoration contractor on your side comes in handy. If the insurance company offers a low-ball claim, the restoration company in the meantime has been gathering evidence and has been itemizing the damages on their own. Armed with the facts, they can negotiate with adjuster to get them to increase their offer.
When disaster strikes, the most important thing to know is who to call - and that is the pros at SERVPRO of Baldwin and Monroe. We are ready to make your disaster look "Like it never even happened."