Tips for Filing an Insurance Claim
- Contact your insurer as quickly as possible to report your intention to file a claim. Take the time to prepare an accurate description of your damages and losses before the call. Your insurer’s call center should provide a claim number. Write down your claim number and refer to it when you contact the insurance company. Add the claim number to any correspondence sent to the insurer. Send all written communications with “return receipt requested” for your file.
- Ask the insurance company representative when you will hear from their insurance adjuster. After a major natural disaster, an adjuster could appear within a week or months from now. If you’re told to expect an insurance adjuster in a week or two, recap the conversation in a letter to the insurance company. The amount of time the insurer delays your claim is an important factor in the state of Texas. A new law, House Bill 1774, says that the insurance company must pay your claim with 10 percent interest after September 1, 2017.
- Document losses with videos and pictures. Create a list of damaged items, including the current approximate value of any damaged item. If available, attach receipts to the list.
- Maintain accurate records of money spent to make repairs to your property, including meals or hotels if it’s impossible to return right away.
- Contact the insurer before making the decision to discard any damaged goods. If possible, show the items to the adjuster or, when necessary, contact the local police department. Your municipality may require you to dispose of some items for safety reasons. Take videos and pictures to support your claims.
- Ask the insurance adjuster sent by your carrier to survey the damage if he or she is employed by the company or works as an independent consultant or contractor. An adjunct insurance adjuster might not have the authority to make decisions about your claim or recommend payment amounts on behalf of the insurer.
- Start an insurance claim diary or file. Write down the names of people with whom you’re in contact at the insurer. Include titles and contact information for each contact, including the date, time, and subject of the discussion.
- Ask your insurance company about text alerts. Opt-in if your insurer sends SMS or text alerts to update you on claims status.
- File an appeal if the insurer offers a low-ball settlement offer. Ask the insurance company to put its position in writing, especially if it has denied or limited the claim. For best results, consult with an experienced insurance claims attorney at this stage.
- Take the same steps to file a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) claim. FEMA administers NFIP. History shows that flood claims from Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy were poorly managed. Some claims are still in the process of settlement. Don’t accept unfair compensation for your losses.
In addition, take a moment to review your insurance policy. A business or commercial enterprise may have several different insurance policies, such as a general property & casualty policy, flood policy, and wind damage policy.
Commercial and residential insurance policies are often long and filled with confusing legal terminology. It’s important to know if your insurance company considers the losses or damages as valid claims. When in doubt, contact an experienced first-party insurance claims attorney to review your insurance policy contract.
Bad Faith Insurers
If the insurer fails to acknowledge receipt of your claim in writing within two weeks, it may be necessary to engage a bad faith insurance attorney. He is experienced in the strategies used by insurance companies to protect their bottom lines.
Recognize that many insurance companies are understaffed and in the business of accepting premium payments. Some have a history of delaying, underpaying or denying their insureds’ claims. Others may be undercapitalized and unprepared to handle the number of claims submitted by their insured clients after a major natural disaster.
Have you been charged with insurance fraud after Hurricane Harvey?
Contact the Law Office of Brett A. Podolsky today for a consultation»
Insurance companies anticipate fraudulent insurance claims
Estimates to date show that insured covered losses from Hurricane Harvey will be between $10 – $20 billion and losses approaching $190 – $200 billion.
Some private insurers will balk at paying their insureds’ valid claims.
Because most Houstonians didn’t have in-force flood insurance (or had inadequate flood insurance), federal money is likely to cover losses by a factor of five to 10 times’ insurance losses. The government isn’t sure about where it will get the money to fund the losses.
Beware of post-Harvey insurance scams
Most public adjusters, contractors, and builders are professional and honest, but it’s important to recognize that the amount of money flowing into Houston may present a great temptation for some fraudsters, including unlicensed and dishonest contractors and unscrupulous insurance adjusters.
Fraudulent insurance claims have become an ever-increasing problem. It’s part of the cost of doing business equation that’s passed along to the insurance-purchasing public.
When a catastrophe like Hurricane Harvey hits, everyone suffers. Insurance companies with an inadequately trained staff might not know how to recognize fraud.
However, some insurance companies practice bad faith. They purposefully delay, underpay, or outright refuse to pay valid claims of their customers. In Texas, bad faith insurers can be forced to pay valid claims plus damages.
National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the federal flood insurance program is approximately $1.4 bn over budget. Tens of thousands of claims are expected in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
If you purchased NFIP flood insurance for your business or commercial property, use the above tips to file a claim.
It may be tempting for some business owners to inflate the value of their losses. They may view insurance fraud as a victimless crime. Realize that a charge of insurance fraud is serious. Contact an experienced insurance fraud attorney as soon as possible to protect your legal rights.
Fraud claims in the aftermath of a natural disaster
Hurricane Sandy (2012) is a kind of case study for the insurance industry and the federal government. It also shows businesses and homeowners what not to do in submitting insurance claims after a natural disaster.
The state of New Jersey continues to pursue fraud claims submitted by homeowners and businesses from Hurricane Sandy. Many people submitted primary residence claims for their beach properties and were paid.
NJ.com reports that more than 100 residents have already been charged with fraudulent requests for relief funds. Many others are being sued by the Internal Revenue Service for failing to pay taxes on relief benefits.
According to the Washington Post, natural disasters tend to bring out the best and worst in people. The National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) was established after Hurricane Katrina in 2005:
- Calls are already rolling into NCDF concerning fake FEMA inspectors who charge victims for services.
- According to the Texas Attorney General’s Office, thousands of complaints have been received concerning alleged fraud, scams, and price gouging.
- The number of reported frauds jumped from 80 the week before Harvey hit to over 400 the week of the storm.
Report suspected fraud to local law enforcement and NCDF to protect yourself and others from those who want to take advantage of you.
Experienced Insurance Fraud Claims Attorney in Houston
After a major natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey, it’s important for businesses and homeowners to prepare for battle with their private and NFIP insurance providers:
- Do everything you can to accurately report your valid claim.
- Demand fair payment of your valid claims. Don’t accept low-ball offers or outright denials from an insurance company.
- Never inflate a claim. An insurance fraud charge is a serious legal matter. If convicted, you face significant fines and possible jail time depending on the dollar amount of the claim.
Attempting to handle a bad faith insurance company without an experienced insurance claims attorney is a frustrating and exhausting exercise in futility. The insurance company retains legal experts. You need an experienced legal expert on your team as well.
If you’ve been charged with insurance fraud, it’s important to contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you engage a knowledgeable insurance fraud attorney, the better.
Contact the Law Office of Brett A. Podolsky to arrange an initial case evaluation at 713-227-0087. Mr. Podolsky is board-certified in Criminal Law and will aggressively fight to defend your legal rights.