The Insurance Information Institute today issued a step-by-step guide to help business owners who are filing a claim in the wake of Sandy. The Institute said there are steps business owners can take now to make the most of the insurance adjuster’s visit and get the company back in the black as soon as possible.
“After you report a claim, your insurance company will either send you a proof of loss form, which you fill out yourself, or schedule an appointment to have an insurance adjuster inspect the site and guide you through the claims process,” according to the I.I.I.
Adjusters are professionally trained and licensed to assess damage, and different types of claims may require the specialized knowledge of various claims adjusters, the I.I.I. said. So there could be more than one adjuster assigned to assist.
For example, there may be a claims professional assess structural damage, a contents specialist to help with the loss of personal property, and a separate adjuster to inspect damage to the car. Additionally, if there is a flood insurance policy or separate coverage for wind damage through a state-run insurance pool, there may be a different claims adjuster assigned.
As part of the claims process, the adjuster (or adjusters) will review all information and the policy to determine coverage, and ask the business owner to obtain estimates for repairs. The more information about the damage the business can supply, the faster the claim can be settled.
Following are six steps to help prepare for the claims process:
1. Contact the insurer as soon as possible. Make sure the insurance company knows how to reach the business owner. Customers can reach out to their insurer by phone, Internet or mobile app to start the claims process. Provide the policy number, loss location, cell phone number and back-up contacts, if available. If at all possible, the insured should try to meet the claims adjuster at the property, providing it is safe to do so.
2. Make any temporary repairs and secure the property. Even before the adjuster arrives, if the insured can do so safely, take steps to protect the property, prevent further damage and reduce the time it may take to restore it, such as making reasonable temporary repairs to avoid further damage and securing features such as windows, doors and roofs as necessary.
3. Collect business records. Collect any relevant business records that the insured will need to prove the value of damaged equipment, inventory or structures that are being included in the business insurance claim.
For business income (also known as business interruption) claims, the insured will need proof of income the business was generating both before and after the interruption began — so the insured should gather all various financial documents including tax returns, monthly sales tax returns, business contracts, budgets, financial statements and other documents pertinent to calculating the projected income of the business. The insured can then work with the insurer to determine the amount of business income lost.
4. Keep a detailed record of all of the expenses incurred to protect or repair the business. If the business is forced to close down, the insured will need to provide information on the cost of conducting business from a temporary location, detailed records of business activity, and a list of expenses that have continued while the business has been suspended such as advertising, utilities, etc.
Loss of or damage to cars, vans, trucks or specialty vehicles, which can hamper the insured’s ability to operate the business, should also be reported.
5. Photograph debris or destroyed items, and ask the insurer if debris can be removed. Generally the insured should not throw away any damaged items until the claims adjuster has visited. However, if it is necessary to dispose of some items, make the insurance company aware that the insured have done so and photograph or take video of the damage before discarding the items. Many insurers can accept photographic documentation directly online.
6. Stay organized. Remember to retain the insurance claim reference number, adjuster and other insurance company contact information, photographs of the damage, receipts, repair bills and estimates. Keep all the paperwork organized so the insured can refer to it easily if questions arise.
Once the claim has been reported, the insured can check the status with the insurer by phone or online. With an online account, the insured can have access to claim information, register for direct deposit of qualified claim payments on qualified losses, upload documents and correspond with the claims adjuster.