Claims happen. If you own a home in Minnesota, you may have experienced some storm damage, or an ice dam that caused interior damage. If you have never had to file an insurance claim, you are very fortunate. Many people have asked me to address the question of “When should I call my insurance company and file a claim?” Hopefully investing a few minutes into reading this will save you some money, and headaches down the line.
Even though I have been handling Insurance Repairs for almost 14 years, I decided to contact my friend Ben Bauman from North Central Insurance Agency to help clarify how most insurance companies view claims. North Central Insurance is an independent agency that represents many decent insurance companies. Ben shed some light for me on the categorization of claims by insurance companies.
When analyzing a claim in respect to future rates and insurability, the theme seems to be answering the question “Could it have been avoided?” Claims, paid or not, are a drain of resources on insurance companies. They will react accordingly to them. While insurance companies have a responsibility to pay legitimate claims, they are a business intent on making money, not losing it. Understanding how they view claims will help you better decide who you need to call first, the insurance company or the contractor.
Here are the two main types of claims that involve repairs to your home-
Weather related claims such as hail damage are unavoidable. They have less impact on your rates than other types of claims, and are simply a part of life. Too many weather related claims in a particular region can raise rates. Rates can also increase if you have a weather related claim and another type of claim in a short period of time.
Avoidable claims are a bit trickier to define. Bottom line- could it have been avoided? One possible example of an avoidable claim is water damage from an overflowing sink or bathtub. If a homeowner’s toddler accidently turns the water on and it runs too long and floods the home, rates may increase substantially in the future as the company is concerned about a repeat.
So if I have damage to my house should I call my insurance company first?
That is the main point of this blog post, when to call in a claim. This is relative to how big the situation is and how much your deductible is. Obviously if you have fire damage or wind damage that impacts, or destroys part of your home you will need to call your insurance. It is obvious you have a claim.
When it comes to minor flood damage or storm damage from wind, hail or lightning, it is often times better to call a contractor knowledgeable with claims BEFORE you file the claim.
1) The “Zero paid claim”. For example, you see hail hit your roof and call your insurance company to send an adjuster out. In this case, the adjuster determines that the hail did not cause damage. You could still be charged with a claim. Huh? Yes, that is right. If you file a claim and there is no damage, most insurance companies still count that as an event. It may not seem fair, but remember that insurance is a numbers game and if you called in a claim now, you may do it again in the future. Knowing the damage is legitimate and a claim is worthwhile is valuable knowledge before the adjuster comes out.
2) The deductible cost may be bigger than the repair charges. This situation is similar to the “Zero paid claim”. $1000.00 deductibles are commonplace these days. If the estimate to repairs the damage is lower than, or slightly over the deductible, paying for the repairs with a contractor may be a better option rather than potentially having to pay higher rates because you did not know it would be a minimal paid claim
3) Damage assessment is free. A good insurance restoration contractor, such as Great River Remodeling, will give you an honest assessment and estimate of your damages. They will share with you their experiences in dealing with your particular situation and insurance company. Doing this before the adjuster arrives is critical to getting you a fair and equitable settlement.
Ultimately, it is your call whether or not you want to file a claim. But most agents will agree it never hurts to have a good contractor on your speed dial when you are unsure if it is covered, or even worth sending into the insurance company. If you have any questions about this article, please feel free to contact Michael or Galen at 763-241-9596. Thanks for taking the time to read this, I hope you found it helpful!