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The Catastrophe Claims Process

Example Insurance Estimate
The above link is for a sample of the detail in which an insurance estimate should be written.

The Claims Process Unit Cost Pricing Public Adjusters

As you may already know, the claims process following a catastrophe can be unnerving at best.  Most people understand that there are potentially hundreds of thousands of insurance claims and only a fraction of that amount of claims adjusters to attend to them.  Further complicating things are lack of electricity, lodging, road access, etc.

Once the claims adjuster does arrive and a settlement offer is made, many of you may have felt that the adjuster overlooked damage or did not pay enough for the damaged items.  This is when the claims process can really become frustrating.  The good news is that the claims process can be overcome and a fair settlement of your damage can be reached if you know a few things about how the process really works.

1. The claims adjuster usually wants to pay every dime it takes to have your home repaired!

Nothing makes an adjuster happier than to be able to pay everything it takes to repair your home and satisfy you.  There are, however, a few hurdles that must be overcome for this to be possible.  There are also things you can do to help.


Claim documentation

This is the single most important & most neglected step in the claims process.  Your adjuster wants to spend the time necessary to document every damaged item in your home.  Unfortunately, this does not always happen.  For a number of reasons, including a massive work load & little sleep, things do occasionally get overlooked or under-measured.  Remember, adjusters are people too and will respond the same way you probably would to a massive work overload.

If you feel that damaged areas of your home or business were either overlooked or under-measured then you can help your adjuster by getting detailed estimates of the damaged areas.  This, however, is where most people get really discouraged. Claims adjusters base their estimates of damage off of two things; quantity & cost.  Their estimate will typically have the measurements for each damaged area with a line by line breakdown of every item, quantity of the items and cost for the items.

Click on the example estimate link on the right of this page.  This is the kind of detail your claims adjuster typically provides to the insurance company prior to making payment.  If you have clicked on the link and examined the estimate and diagrams I am sure you can see how much work can be involved in properly documenting a claim and writing the estimate (6 to 20 hours).

In the example estimate there was damage to the walls, but not to the ceiling.  Thus, in the estimate provided by the claims adjuster it was clear that payment was being made for the cost of repairs to the walls and nothing for the ceiling.  It is this clarity of what items are being paid for and what items are not that the claims adjuster requires to be able to compare his estimate to yours.  The more detailed the estimate you give to your adjuster, and the easier it is to compare apples to apples, the better.

Contractor Estimates

Unfortunately, during catastrophe situations most contractors will not spend the time necessary to measure and compile such an estimate for a project they might or might not be awarded.  In fact they usually provide very little written detail as to what they are estimating.  In some cases it is as bad as "Fix house - $85,000.00" written on a blank estimate sheet with a handwritten company name.  This is understandable from the contractors' point of view.  In catastrophe situations many contractors have literally gone bankrupt writing estimates - and then not getting any of the work.  This is because even though there is plenty of work to be done, a large percentage of the people will work contractors to death giving "free" estimates (you get what you pay for) to give their insurance company and then waiting to do the work until prices come down (thereby requiring more contractor estimates).

Having trouble even getting estimates?

After a catastrophe, contractors quickly figure out their losing money by donating their time to give people free estimates.  The construction market quickly develops a 180 degree turn in procedure.  Instead of giving a bid in hopes of winning a contract, the contractors now want you to sign a contract in hopes of getting a bid.  In actuality they are asking you to definitively hire them as "your contractor" and assign them the full insurance benefits of the portion of the work they are addressing.  In return, the contractor will spend the time necessary to personally negotiate with your claims adjuster.

The people who seem to have the most problems getting a contractor to repair their home or business are those that are, in some way, attempting to profit from their claim settlement.  These people are either attempting to get the work done for less than their adjuster has allowed (pocketing the difference) or they are trying to get more work done  or better quality materials (upgrades)than that which was paid for by their claims adjuster - without paying anything additional. 

Also, be aware that the cost of the upgrades you have your contractor estimate may be one of the reasons you can not come to a settlement with your claims adjuster.  Certainly when already performing a large construction project, it is the perfect time to perform upgrades and additional remodeling.  However, the insurance company only owes you for what you had, not for what you want. 

Usually, even in a catastrophe situation, a quality contractor can be found quickly if they know their time spent working on your estimate will result in the contract for the full amount the claims adjuster pays.  In the industry this is known as a "contract for insurance proceeds" and has become the "norm" after catastrophes.

Public Insurance Adjusters

For the most accurate and speedy settlements, these are people to see.  These are professional claims adjusters that have no affiliation with insurance companies and work directly for you.  Basically, they represent you to your insurance company alleviating you of the headaches involved in the claim settlement process.  They write all of the estimates and meet with your adjuster at your home or business to negotiate the best settlement possible.  Public Adjusters work on a contingency and are paid a commission of your claims settlement.  If they don't produce anything additional to what you have already received then you owe them nothing.  Inherently, this causes them to be extremely thorough and detailed.  Proportionately, however, there are not many people licensed in this profession.  If you are lucky enough to come across one after a storm, hire him quickly before he is no longer accepting new clients.

We at Docu-Damage sincerely hope that we have been able to shed some light on the catastrophe claims documentation process.  If you have any individual questions please email us and we will do our best to guide you in the right direction.



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