After devastating damage to your home and property, you want to rely on your insurance adjuster to give you a fair estimate of your losses. Many people accept severely underpaid offers, leaving a homeowner without the money to rebuild the unexpected damage.
After you have filed a claim with your insurance company, they will send insurance claim adjusters to come to your house and inspect your loss and damages. An insurance company may call its adjuster an analyst, a representative, or some other title. Still, the insurance adjuster’s goal is to evaluate your claim and decide how much money the insurance company is required to pay.
Disputing Low Homeowners Insurance Settlements
You shouldn’t be intimidated to negotiate with your insurance claims adjuster. It’s not uncommon for the first estimate to be slightly lower. For insurance companies, a low offer is beneficial if you accept the initial offer. The company avoids a negotiation and can pay out a minor claim.
Become the expert on your claim and coverage
- Know your homeowners policy. You need to review your policy to ensure that the low offer includes all of the damages your policy covers. An insurance company can act in bad faith if they fail to investigate your claim thoroughly or if they refuse to cover damages they are contractually obliged to meet.
- Document your pre-loss conditions. After the property damager, the insurance adjuster will interview you to develop a “scope of loss.” The absence of information results in lower estimates. If the item is not listed in the assessment, its cost will not be in the final estimate total. You can use the following sources to document your property before the damage:
- House listing
- An inspector’s report
- A house appraisal
- A recent house assessment – if you’ve recently re-financed
- The original house plans
- Documentation from independent contractors who have worked on your house
- Order history for purchases from your hardware store for any improvements
- Document your costs. Proving up replacement costs is not as easy as simply rebuilding your home and turning in the receipts. You have a right, though, to be paid the price to replace your home to its pre-loss condition, subject to the fine print in your policy.
Review the original claim you filed
Before you contact your insurance adjuster, review your initial claim and review the homeowners’ insurance claims process. Is there any way you can improve the claim or supply more evidence of loss?
Contact your insurance adjuster or insurance company again
After analyzing your initial filed paperwork, call to speak to your insurance agent about the estimate you received from your insurance adjuster. If you have new proof or supplemental information to add to the claim, ask if the insurance company will review your claim again.
Alternatively, you can ask for the insurance adjuster to reexamine the property damaged or lost. It’s possible that an insurance adjuster made an error or miscalculated the estimate. The insurance company may not agree to send the adjuster again, but it’s worth asking. If the adjuster does come back out, avoid signing any documents until you have reviewed and fully understand everything it contains.
Consider an independent adjuster
Hiring an independent public adjuster allows you to get a separate estimate for your property damage. The new assessment can achieve two things: 1) confirm the accuracy of the low offer or 2) provide you leverage in negotiations.
If the estimate is higher, you should contact your insurance claims manager and ask them to re-evaluate your case.
Speak with an experienced attorney
If you cannot agree on a claim with your home insurance company and you’ve exhausted all of the previous options should talk to an insurance lawyer about your options.
Natural Disasters and Low Offers
Insurance companies try to manage natural disaster claims as quickly as possible. However, natural disasters that cause flood damage or wind damage can cause a massive increase of simultaneous claims, making it hard for insurance adjusters to respond quickly.
A larger volume of damage claims may force insurance adjusters to make rough estimates. If this occurs, you as the homeowner should be notified and expect a second visit from an insurance adjuster later.
The state insurance departments may set special dates for insurance companies to confirm that your claim has been filed.
What if I take the low offer a home insurance adjuster gives?
If you take the home insurance adjuster’s settlement offer or accept an advance immediately, you can still go back to the insurance company if you discover additional damage. You can “reopen” the claim and file for an additional amount. It’s usual for policies to require claims to be filed within one year from the date of the disaster, but you’ll want to check that for your state.
Additionally, if there is damage to different homeowner’s insurance policy categories, you may receive multiple checks. You may qualify to receive a separate homeowners insurance settlement check for additional living expenses that you incur while your home is being renovated.
How do I know if my insurance company is handling a claim?
Insurance companies have 15 days to acknowledge they have received a claim. This can be extended if the claim is a result of a natural disaster or national emergency. In that case, it’s usual for an insurance company to acknowledge your claim within 60 days of getting the proof of loss from you or your adjuster.
What if I am unable to reach an agreement with my insurance company?
If you’ve gone around in circles with your insurance company and cannot reach an agreement on a settlement offer, you have two options: file a complaint with the state and talk to a lawyer. An experienced insurance lawyer can help advocate and negotiate on your behalf.
How do I dispute a denial or low settlement offer?
If you need to dispute a low settlement offer from your insurance adjuster, start by contacting your insurance claims department. If the dispute is over the extent of damage to your home, ask your adjuster to inspect your house again. You can also bring in a third-party adjuster to assess the damage for a second opinion.
Remember that sometimes claim payment disagreements result from confusion about what’s covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. Always review your homeowner’s insurance policy to see if you’re covered for the damage in dispute and what the dollar limits are for your insurance coverage.
Consider Hiring an Experienced Attorney to Help Handle Home Insurance Adjusting
A home insurance adjuster usually deals with several insurance claims every week. Still, you can be the expert for your homeowners’ insurance payout. Review all of your documents, and make sure to provide proof of your damage. Then you can start to negotiate with your home insurance adjuster.
If your negotiations with an insurance company are stalled, you should reach out to My Insurance Case. At The MIC Law Firm, we pride ourselves on being approachable and knowledgeable. Contact us today for a free consultation. We have offices in New Orleans, Houston, and Lake Charles. Our practice focuses on insurance cases (including flooding damage, wind, and hurricane damage), and we can help you recover your losses.