Now that the worst of Hurricane Sandy has blown over much of the East Coast, now is a crucial time for homeowners who woke up this morning to property damage.
Since insurers take claims on a first-come, first-served basis, you'll want to snag a spot in line as soon as possible.
Here's what you should know:
-There's more to filing a claim than making a phone call and getting a check in the mail. Before anything else, call your insurer and ask them specifically what you'll need to file a claim. They will almost certainly ask for proof of damage. That means leaving the tree trunk that's embedded itself into your parked car where it is until you take photos.
-When you've taken photos of every piece of property damage possible, carefully jot down a list of damaged items as well, including their dollar value. If you have proof of purchase for damaged items, that's even better. If some of your belongings were blown or swept away by flooding and wind, try your best to come up with either proof of purchase or an old photo that would back up your claim.
-Once you've done your camera work, you're free to come up with temporary repairs (covering up broken windows and throwing tarpaulin over leaky roofs, for example), but stop there. Don't have any permanent repairs done until your insurance company has sent out an agent for an inspection. He or she will want to know what you've done to repair any damage, so hang on to any receipts.
-Don't expect your insurer to tell you every step you'll need to file a successful claim. Ask if there are any particular forms, documents or other information you'll need, and keep track of all your phone conversations with insurance representatives.
-Don't be afraid to negotiate, says the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, especially if the first offer does not meet your expectations. "If there is a disagreement about the claim, ask the company for the specific language in the policy in question and determine why you and the company interpret your policy differently. If you believe you are being treated unfairly, contact your state insurance department."
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