Homeowners' insurance covers losses from property damage from incidents like fires, theft, and water. Car insurance covers damage to vehicles. Keep records about your losses to submit when you make a claim. You will need to notify the insurance company within a specific timeframe. If you disagree with an estimate or the insurer denies your claim, you can appeal or seek legal help.
What kinds of losses are covered by insurance?
Recovery for losses depends on the type of insurance and the terms of the policy. Most property insurance covers losses from fire, smoke, wind, theft, riots, vandalism, and water damage not caused by flooding. Flood insurance is a separate policy. A homeowner’s policy covers wind-blown rain damage if it can be shown the water damage was caused by wind and not due to flooding. Car insurance usually covers physical damage to the vehicle.
Should I make repairs to my home or vehicle?
Make only reasonable and necessary repairs to prevent further damage, such as covering broken windows or patching holes. Do not make any permanent repairs until your insurance adjuster has had a chance to inspect your car or property.
What if I have flood insurance?
Your insurance company will send an inspector, who will submit a damage report to the National Flood Insurance Processing Center for approval. Only the Flood Processing Center can approve the flood claim. Flood insurance will not reimburse for temporary living expenses.
How do I make an insurance claim?
Contact the claims department to start the process. Many policies have a one-year deadline from the time of the loss to report the claim. There may be special procedures for disaster claims. Write down your policy number, the date, who you spoke with, and what you talked about. The Texas Department of Insurance has a site for looking up an insurance company or find a company’s agent for service of process.
How do I prove my losses?
Documentation is very important. Give your insurance company:
Receipts temporary shelter (hotel) and meal expenses.
A detailed written description of physical damage to the property. Include photos, if available.
An inventory of damaged belongings and estimated replacement value of each. List even small items, such as kitchen utensils and clothing accessories. Include estimated sales tax.
Written estimates of repairs.
Invoices or receipts for repairs that have been completed.
Include dates on your documents. Keep copies of everything you send to the insurance company.
What if I disagree with the estimate?
Tell your insurance company in writing why you disagree with the estimate. You can hire an independent adjuster that does not work for your insurance company, but be aware that they get paid by taking a percentage of your insurance recovery.
When will I hear back about my claim?
Texas law requires insurance companies to act within certain deadlines or face fines and penalties after a claim is filed. Insurance companies must:
Respond within 15 days of receiving your claim in writing.
Accept or reject your claim within 15 days of submitting any requested documents. If there is a delay, they get an additional 45 days if they give you written notice explaining the reasons for the delay. In a disaster situation, insurers get an additional 15 days to accept or reject your claim after you’ve submitted the documents they requested.
Explain why they are rejecting all or a part of your claim to you in writing.
Mail your claim check within five business days after they agree to pay your claim. If you are financing your house, the insurer will usually request that your mortgage lender approve your check before releasing it to you. The lender must act within 10 days of receiving the request from your insurance company.
If you need money before your claim is resolved, ask for an advance on your settlement.
Make sure it states in writing that it is an advance only, not the final settlement. If your claim is denied, make a written request to reconsider.
If Your Claim Is Denied
If your claim is denied, or if there is no action on your claim by the legal deadlines for insurance companies, consult a lawyer. The insurer might be liable for damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.