If your home is damaged by a covered peril, you will need to notify your insurance company as soon as possible. All companies have toll-free telephone numbers for claims reporting, and most have company websites with online claims reporting options as well. Remember, an insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurance company, so there are rules and procedures that you and your insurer must follow. The best way to understand your role is to read your insurance policy.

1. If you are the victim of a theft or your home has been vandalized or burglarized, report it to the police. Get the case number and share it with your company insurance adjuster.

2. Insurance policies place a time limit on filing claims, so always report promptly. Ask questions: Am I covered? Does my claim exceed my deductible? How long will it take to process my claim? Will I need to obtain estimates for repairs to structural damage?

3. Take reasonable steps to protect your property from further damage. Save receipts for what you spend, and submit them to your insurance company for reimbursement.

4. You are going to need to substantiate your loss. Preserve damaged items until your adjuster has visited your home. Photograph or videotape the damage, and prepare a home inventory for your adjuster along with copies of receipts from damaged items.

5. If your home is severely damaged and you need to find other accommodations while repairs are being made, keep records of all additional expenses incurred. Most homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for the “loss of use” of their home. Be aware that many policies do NOT provide coverage for the additional living expense if a mandatory evacuation is ordered and there is no loss to your home.

6. Once you have notified your insurance company about your claim, the company is required to send the necessary claim forms to you by the end of a specified time period. (The time period varies from state to state.) Return the properly filled-out forms as soon as possible in order to avoid delays.

7. Your insurance company will arrange for an adjuster to work with you to handle your claim either through the telephone or by visiting your home, depending on the size of your loss. Once you and your insurance company agree on the terms of your settlement, state laws require that you are sent payment promptly. In most cases, your claim will be processed quickly. If you have any questions about the claim filing laws in your state, call your insurance agent or your state insurance department.

The Actuarial Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, was established in 1994 to help facilitate and broaden the profession’s contribution to society. The Foundation explores innovative ways to apply actuarial skills in the public interest and brings together broad partnerships of individuals and organizations to address social problems in creative ways.

The nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc. (FLASH®) is an award-winning coalition of government agencies, professional associations, and private industry committed to strengthening homes, safeguarding families, and protecting economic well-being by promoting disaster preparedness.

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