11 Oct Claim Handling Essentials Part 3 – Document Everything
In part 1 and part 2 of this series I discussed the importance of obtaining the insurance policy and tracking the statute of limitations. In part 3, I am going to talk about how to document a claim file to create maximum value for the insured.
While I know that most of the public adjusters reading this post already do a great job when it comes to documenting their files, it is imperative that contractors do the same. As a contractor, you are often the first one to observe the loss and walk it with the insurance adjuster. If you document these events properly, you will inevitably become the most valuable person to the insured in terms of getting their claim resolved.
In terms of documenting the claim, the most important thing you can do is take as many photographs as possible. Especially if the insured does not have photographs of the loss while it is occurring (and they typically do not) a contractors initial photographs are the most valuable piece of evidence that I can have in a lawsuit, if for no other reason than they depict the damage most proximate to when it actually occurred. The later in time the photographs, the more opportunity there is for the condition of the property to be altered, either through subsequent weather events, emergency repairs, or permanent repairs. Thus, not only is it important to take photographs, but it makes a huge difference if you can put a date on them and clearly identify where they were taken and what they depict.
Beyond photographs, pointing out the damage to the insurance adjuster, getting them to admit that it is in fact damage, and then recording this admission can be critical in making sure the claim gets paid. It is during this initial inspection before the carrier brings out its hired gun consultant that you can get an adjuster to acknowledge that there is in fact covered damage to the property. If you take copious and contemporaneous notes at the inspection, it is possible (although not guaranteed) that any admissions made by the adjuster can later be used in court. Inevitably, this will make it much harder for the carrier to rely on a consultant who later comes out and attempts to say that there is no observable damage that would be covered under the policy.
Finally, it is critical that you document every communication with the carrier in writing. This means that if you speak with an adjuster on the phone, you confirm what was said in a subsequent email. Make as many requests to the carrier as you possibly can and put all of them in writing then consistently follow up. A well-documented claim file is imperative when it comes to recreating the claims process during a lawsuit. Bottom line there is a direct correlation between the thoroughness of the claim file and the ability of an attorney to make a bad faith case.
So, to recap, the following are five bullet points that summarize what I have discussed in this series:
- Get the Policy
- Track the Statute of Limitations
- Take photographs as early and often as possible
- Point out damage to the adjuster and take copious notes
- Make frequent requests to the carrier and put them all in writing
I hope that you find these tools useful in resolving your claims.