I’ve been meaning to do this for some time, but never got around to it. Today seems like a good day.
To start, I want to qualify what I’m about to say. This applies in Kansas. That’s where I live, that’s where I work. It might be different in other states. And it doesn’t really apply at all if you have insurance with a company that hires their own adjusters. So this only applies when you’re talking about a mutual company, or a smaller insurance company that farms out their adjusting.
Okay, so something terrible has happened. Let’s say there was a bad hail storm and your roof is dinged all to hell and maybe something is leaking water into your kitchen. It’s the end of the world as you know it and you have to turn in an insurance claim. So you call your insurance agent and they write up the claim. If the storm wasn’t too bad, they’ll get it done fairly quickly. And the fact that you have water leakage moves you to the top of the stack. But if you’re smart (and we both know you are) you’ll get up on your roof and get a tarp nailed down over it to keep that leak from getting worse. The insurance company can choose to pay you less if you allow the damage to escalate. So putting a tarp on your roof is priority 1. The same goes for windows that are out. Cover them. Hell, take pictures of the damage (lots of pictures) and fix them. But don’t just let things get worse because you haven’t heard from your adjuster yet. Sewer backup? Call out a company to start taking care of it. Just make sure to document everything.
Okay, so your agent has written up your claim and if you’re lucky, submitted it to the insurance company ASAP. If it’s a big storm with a lot of claims, this could end up taking them all day. So then the insurance company has it. And they have to decide which adjusters to send it to. Some of the mutual companies have their own guys, but only one or two. So anything big means calling in outside guys. Based on how bad and how widespread the storm, it could take all day for the company to send out your claim to the adjusters. But since, in our example, there’s water damage, you’re probably moved to the top of the stack. Still, your agent didn’t get started till at least 8am. Then the company didn’t get it until at least 9 or 10. So by the time it gets to the adjusters, it’s at least 11 or 12. If you don’t have water damage, it’s probably more like the next day. So, now the adjuster has it. And at this point, there’s a little variance. I only really know how things go at my company. But the way it works here is that the claim comes in on the email or the fax and it’s printed out and paperclipped together. Then it gets put in a box. The owner of the company is the one that assigns the claims to the individual adjusters. Other companies, with less hands-on owners might have office people that do the assignments. But that’s not my job, and I think I’d actually get in trouble if I tried to do it. So, it waits for the owner.
The biggest problem with this, is that the owner also does claims. So he’s probably out running around all over Eastern Kansas. If the insurance company called to warn him about the claim, he might have already decided who’s going to get it and then it just gets forwarded on to them. If not, it won’t be assigned to adjuster until that night at the earliest. And when there’s a really big storm, sometimes, he’ll group things by area, assign the first round of stuff, and then wait to see which adjuster is fastest to send them the next batch. But the problem is that the company mailed you a letter probably at the exact same time that they faxed the claim to us. So when you get the letter the next day, you think you need to call someone.
Whatever you do, do not call as soon as you get that letter. That letter is so that you know that your claim was received and it’s been sent on to the next step. In our office in particular, there is a lag between when something is assigned and when it gets entered in the computer. Your adjuster will have your information, but when you call me, I have no idea what you’re talking about. And then I spend 10 minutes sifting through piles of stuff that needs to be entered, looking for your claim so I can tell you who your adjuster is and give you their number. Which just means that I don’t get more stuff entered so that the next call goes through the process again. And in the end, you feel like a bunch of disorganized morons have your claim and you start to freak out and on and on.
So just wait. Give it two days and if they still haven’t called you, then call. By that time, you’ll be in the computer, the person you speak to will be able to talk like they know what they’re doing. You’ll get the information you seek and all will be well. Since there’s water leakage going on, most likely, if you give it two days, you’ve already been contacted and things will be happy.
Now, here’s where things get a little “unfair.” Because we’re a smaller company, our guys will run out, look at as many places as they can cram into a day and repeat the process the next day. So most of the paperwork is done on the weekends. Or late in the evening. Either way, it’ll be 5-10 days before your paperwork is done and submitted to the insurance company. In the meantime, all your neighbors that have State Farm have had an adjuster out, who did their paperwork right there, handed them an estimate and turned it all in to the company at the end of the night. So they’re getting checks. They’re getting their roof fixed. And all you can do is wait. I wish I could say that calling us will move things along faster. But most likely it’ll only frustrate me and make me send emails to the adjusters about your call. And then they will maybe do your paperwork first, maybe not. Then once they do the paperwork, all of it goes through the owner for billing. So even though we have almost a dozen adjusters, billing only moves as fast as one guy can go. So the 5-10 days is really an optimistic estimate.
Then, once the insurance company has the report, they follow their own procedures for getting out checks. At this point, STOP CALLING ME! Once we turn the report in to the insurance company, the ball is in their court. We don’t write checks. We write reports. The company can choose to accept our report (and they usually do) or they can ask that we look at it again. Or they can point out an error where we took too much/too little deprectiation, forgot a deductible or an exclusion, or whatever. But either way, you will most likely NOT receive a check two days after we turn in our report. So you’re waiting some more.
The point of all this, is that dealing with insurance companies can be confusing. And, like an emergency room, it’s not always first come, first served. It’s more like first come, first served, unless a bigger emergency comes in. Like someone’s house burning down. Pretty much, the hierarchy goes: Fire, Water (with continued leak), Water (without continued leak), Wind/Hail roof damage, Lightning (ie, electronics that don’t work), Theft. Your stuff isn’t really going to get more stolen. So unless things that were vital to life were stolen, expect that claim to take a while. Not to mention, it involves getting police reports (which take a while).
What can you do to speed things up? Well, it depends on your claim, but some good things to keep in mind.
1. If things were destroyed/stolen and you intend to be reimbursed for them by your insurance company, make a list. The sooner you get started on the list, the more accurate it will be and the sooner you can get it to the adjuster so they can determine whether or not you have coverage for it all. And the sooner they do that, the sooner it’ll be turned in to the insurance company and you can get paid.
2. Do not just let things sit! I had a woman call in after a storm who said that she’d missed two days of work and all her windows were out. A) Why? Why would you take multiple days off of work when you can wait and just take the day off that the adjuster plans to be there? B) Take pictures and fix your windows. You are making things worse by leaving them like that. And the insurance company doesn’t have to pay for any damage that is the result of your negligence.
3. Take pictures. Lots of pictures. If you have a digital camera, that’s best, but if not, just take pictures. And then, make temporary repairs. Tarp your roof. Cover your windows. Call the water restoration guys to pump out your basement. As long as you have a lot of pictures of the damage, you’ll be okay. And the stuff needs to be taken care of anyway. So do it.
4. Be patient. Just because you received something in the mail, doesn’t mean you need to call someone. Give it a day or so.
Okay. I feel better now. And hopefully, if you ever have to deal with an insurance claim and you have to go through this whole process, you’ll feel better too. Because now you know how much behind the scenes stuff goes into that report and that check that you get.