Maximizing Your Insurance Settlement

I get a lot of questions about how to maximize insurance settlements. Below are some suggestions on what to do during the early stages of a home disaster.

First and foremost, be sure to save any and all receipts related to the inconvenience of being displaced from your home. This includes hotel (be sure to clear hotel arrangements with the insurance company first), restaurant meals and even the expense of developing your photos. Keep in mind that some insurance companies may have reimbursement caps such as meal per diems and clarify any of these items with the agent up front. In my case, for example, I was reimbursed only for incremental meal expenses above and beyond my regular grocery costs. It is, unfortunately, true that the odds of the insurance company proactively communicating this information to you are low.


Take photos of anything that is damaged, especially any personal property that needs to be thrown away (damaged books, towels, etc). You will need them later should there be any doubt in the insurance company’s mind that your claim is legitimate. If your insurance company sends an emergency services crew to pack up your belongings, make absolutely certain that you retain any receipts you’ve been saving. Again, you may need them as proof of the orginal purchase price of your items.


If you have the patience, I also recommend keeping a record of all phone calls and voice mails associated with the claim. I referred back to my voice mail transcripts many times during the course of my negotiations. If you simply don’t have the time to type up every voice mail, many telephone service providers now enable you to store your voice mails online by logging on to their Web sites.


I also built spreadsheets of damaged furniture, personal property, even contaminated groceries. Having descriptions of damaged belongings, along with the original purchase prices and purchase dates in one place, made it much easier to communicate the extent of my loss. I can guarantee that for every spreadsheet I compiled, my payout rose accordingly.


I also put my organizational skills to use in creating a one page document with frequently-used phone numbers. Since the early days of a home disaster can be truly overwhelming, it was a great source of control to have all the contact information I needed in one place. I included insurance company representatives, potential lawyers, contractor referrals and other impacted neighbors. This sheet was my bible for many months, and I can’t imagine having kept it all together if I had scribbled all the names and numbers on scrap paper and post-it notes.



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