Imagine that you spent several hundred dollars or more on homeowners insurance coverage, just so that you could have a little peace of mind if something went wrong. Now imagine that your insurance company denied your claim after your home was damaged or ruined beyond repair.
Denied claims make your life much more complicated, especially when you don’t have the cash to pay for the repairs on your own. But don’t start thinking of ways you can live with those burst pipes or that tree through your roof just yet. Take a deep breath and read on. There may still be hope.
What You Can Do
Remember, your insurance company is a business. They don’t like to give away money if they don’t have to. They make a habit of denying claims to their loyal customers because they don’t want to be the ones to foot the bill.
If you are the victim of a traumatic incident which has caused extensive damage to your property, you deserve the chance to rebuild your life. Here are some tips that may change the outcome.
1. Review Your Claim
Insurance claims are full of jargon and can be hard to follow. If you can get past the technical and awkward wording, you will find out why a claim was denied. At least, those details should be listed in your policy.
If they aren’t, you shouldn’t simply throw the claim away and vent about paying for the damages yourself. Pick up the phone and call your insurer. They are legally obligated to explain why it was denied.
2. Know Your Policy
Insurers are very thorough when they write their homeowners insurance policies. They want to make sure they have a valid contract that spells out your rights and when you will be given or denied coverage. If your claim was denied, always go back and review your policy. If it was damaged in a fire or other accident to your home, you can get another copy from your insurance company. Once you have the policy in front of you, focus on the following:
- Review Your Rights. Make sure you review your rights and know if your claim was denied with or without cause. It is possible your claim was simply denied because of a filing error on the part of your insurance company. It is also possible that someone new to the office was responsible for denying the claim without fully understanding the policy.
- Understand Policy Maximums. Your insurer may have mistakenly limited your coverage to an amount lower than what they were legally required to pay. Again, this is probably due to a filing error or confusion with another policy rather than fraud. Either way, make sure you catch the discrepancy.
Understanding your policy in detail is essential. If you catch a mistake on the part of an insurer, you have a good chance of appealing their decision or taking them to court. You will only have that chance if you take the time to look.
3. Gather Details
If there is a discrepancy with your claim and you feel it was unfairly denied, you may have to prove your case. Before you can file an appeal, gather evidence to support it. The process will vary depending on the circumstances, but you may have to do one or more of the following:
- Know the facts regarding the incident itself (dates, extent of damage, parties involved, steps you took to prevent the incident and any extenuating circumstances).
- Request an independent appraisal if their is a disagreement over the value of your home.
- Take pictures of damages.
- Show records of any purchases you made to protect your home (such as home fire safety alarms and home security systems).
- Find witnesses who may speak on your behalf.
- Document all conversations you have had with your insurance company.
- Show all evidence that you are a responsible homeowner, and are not liable for any incidents if the claim was denied due to negligence on your part.
The last thing you want to do before you make an appeal is go in unprepared. Remember, tens of thousands of dollars could be at stake.
4. File an Appeal
If you believe your claim was denied without reason and should be covered under your existing policy, you can try to file an appeal with your insurance company directly. They will provide details on how to make an appeal if you wish to do so. An appeal isn’t a guarantee that the decision will be changed, but it is worth a shot.
Make sure you document all evidence to support your claim. Here are a couple of examples of things you’ll need.
- Photo and Written Documentation of Damages. A picture can speak a thousand words and a written document is very helpful as well. Take plenty of photos of the damage, from multiple angles, and write a clear description of what happened.
- Any Documentation of Inspections and Maintenance. One of the most common reasons claims are denied is due to negligence or recklessness on the part of homeowners. Do everything you can to prove you are not at fault for any damages in your home. Show that everything was up to code and that you were a safe and responsible homeowner. Whatever their reasoning for denying your claim, make sure that you can support your own position.
If your appeal is still denied, the only option you have left is to take the insurer to court or a private arbitrator. This is something you should seriously consider if you just lost a one hundred thousand dollar home. Make sure you have records of all transactions with your insurance company to back yourself up when you go into the courtroom. Get a good lawyer to support you. They may be expensive, but their fees won’t even compare to the cost of losing your claim.
Insurance companies deny claims all the time. Sometimes they have just cause to do so, but they can make mistakes as well. Whether they make a simple filing error or misread the terms of your policy, you shouldn’t have to be the one to suffer. You deserve restitution if your home has been damaged or destroyed, so make sure you understand your policy and your options before you throw in the towel.
Have you filed a homeowner’s claim and been denied? What steps did you take in response? Share your experiences in the comments below.
(photo credit: Shutterstock)