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When Should You File an Insurance Claim?

Having a homeowners insurance policy is more than just checking a box on a mortgage application. While yes, your mortgage lender does require that you have an active policy at all times, the purpose of the policy is really to protect YOU, the homeowner, from loss or damage to your home or against liability claims against you. However, it’s sometimes challenging to know when is the right time to file a claim. There are some guidelines that industry experts use that may help.

Losses above your deductible amount

There are two schools of thought on this, and it may be the cause of a family feud over Sunday dinner if you happen to have passionate believers on both sides. One school of thought is that you should file for ANY damage that is above your deductible. So if an estimate comes in at $550, and your deductible is $500, then you would file a claim.

The opposing school of thought is that damage above the deductible amount should be paid out of pocket if it’s just a small amount. The proponents of this approach believe that the time spent on documentation and the risk of increasing premiums for frequent claims is not worth the payout.

Basically, this one is a matter of personal preference. You know what you can afford. So set a personal threshold, and stick to that. If the cost of the damage exceeds your threshold, then go ahead and file a claim. If the damage is going to be more than you can afford to repair, then you should always file a claim.

Property damage that could be bigger than it looks

Have you ever been in a fender bender, where there appears to be only minor damage, but when you take it in for the estimate, you find out that some hidden issue increases the price tag exponentially? The same can happen with your home. Especially with things like water leaks or storm damage, you may not know the extent of the damage until an expert looks it. For instance, a hail storm could damage your roof, and it looks like only a few shingles or damaged. However, a hidden leak results from one of the damaged shingles, and before you know it you have a wet ceiling and mold growing in your insulation.

If you have damage that looks relatively minor, but there are risks of hidden issues, you should go ahead and file the claim. If, after you have the professional inspection done, you discover that the damages IS minor, you can always drop the claim. However, if you find out an issue is bigger than it initially looked, you’ll be thankful that you filed the claim, so that repairs can begin quickly.

Potential liability claims

If you have an incident on your property that has the potential to turn into a liability claim, then you should report it right away. A liability is any incident on your property where someone other than your immediate family becomes ill or injured, or there is property damage to another person’s property that is covered under your liability policy. The earlier you report the incident, the better prepared your insurance company will be when defending you.

Even if the incident seems relatively minor, it’s possible that once medical treatment is sought or estimates to repair property are received, the price tag is more than you anticipated. For instance, let’s say some neighbor kids are playing with your kids on your trampoline, and one of the kids is injured. It may seem like a simple bone break, but after going to the emergency room, you find out the kid needs surgery. You better believe that your neighbors will file a liability claim – who wants to pay for an expensive surgery if they can get someone else’s insurance to pay for it? It happened on your property, on your trampoline, so therefore you are liable.

If any accident or injury happens on your property, notify your insurance immediately.

Filing the Claim

If you are ready to file a claim, your first step is to contact your agent. If you’ve never done a claim before, it can seem intimidating, but it’s really not. Your agent can go over the process and timelines with you, and answer any questions you may have. After that, you just wait for the claims department to contact you. They may ask questions about the incident, and they may send an adjuster to your home to look at the scene and conduct an appraisal, or they may request estimates from an approved list of contractors.

If the incident involves an injury or other liability claim, they may also interview witnesses to the event in order to get a clear picture of liability. These claims tend to take longer to investigate and resolve than simple damage claims.

Dealing with repairs to your home and insurance claims are no one’s favorite tasks. But they are important part of ensuring that your home stays in tip top shape. When it is time to sell or buy a home, having a local team you can rely on will make the process a smooth one. Call the Realtors® who love where they live and understand the local real estate market. ADMC Realty Group happily serves the communities in and around the Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia areas. From start to finish, we’re here to help with all your Real estate needs. Give us a call at (202)596-8101 or email us at [email protected].

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