It's never easy talking to your insurance company. During an emergency you're under lots of stress. You're at a disadvantage not knowing their process. You likely have limited/no experience with the problems you're facing. But you've got to take action and fast so …
The only number in my phone was my insurance agent. I called and explained my house was flooded. Given my experience running a handyman business, I added that water mitigation was needed immediately. They volunteered to call the insurance company to open the “claim”. About an hour later I got a call from the “on call” water mitigation team member Rigo, who was already driving to my house.
Another challenge was not being in Florida where the flooded house was. I'd just flown up to Maine to help my sister who was wheelchair bound following a motorcycle accident. My son went over to the house and walked through the house. He quickly identified there was an outlet in the floor … so he headed to the store to pick up some boots.
With boots on, Ryan returned to the house to identify where the leak came from. He also took about 40 photos as …
Talking to Your Insurance Company – Conversation #1
Sometime after 9 am the next morning, I got a call from the insurance company. This was my first opportunity to talk to my insurance company. Ray was polite and asked if now was a good time to talk. I explained it was fine as I was in Maine and the water team wouldn't arrive at the house until later that morning, having worked until 11 pm the night before.
Talking to your insurance company for the first time, you want to focus on listening to what they say and the questions they ask. In hindsight, it would have helpful if I had researched this topic before the call. My mistake was thinking that all claims are handled similar to my one experience with Allstate that had gone very well. Here's an article, How to Deal with a Home Insurance Adjuster from the Insurance Company, that I recommend you read before talking to your insurance company adjuster.
The article above recommended you “Avoid giving the adjuster a recorded statement”. Sometimes I'm overly confident so of course, I allowed the call to be recorded … and then didn't require that they share the recording with me. Ray went through a list of probing questions which felt like he was looking for reasons to deny the claim.
- When did I close on the house … and the name of the builder (punchlist after the closing).
- When did I start living there after I explained how I'd renovated the house after closing.
- What I believed caused the flood. I explained it was a bathroom sink supply line based on the photos I'd seen.
Written Documentation after Talking to Insurance Company
Everyone hears something different based on their perspective and personal experience. Realizing my story was rather unusual, I offered to send the insurance company adjuster a summary of key events concerning my house. This was the best way for me to insure he was making decisions based on facts versus a misunderstanding during our phone conversation. Read my email on the timeline from signing the builder contract up to the day of the flood.
Insurance Companies Use Sub-Contractors for Everything!
During my first call with the insurance company, I answered lots of questions but receive no information about their claim process, who would be involved and what I could expect. I was simply given the name of the field adjuster assigned, along with his phone number and little else.
During my only other homeowner insurance claim (Allstate in NH), I had frequent and open communications with both adjusters. So it was really frustrating trying to communicate with players who were hard to reach and/or didn't want to talk. That pushed me to dig further, to understand the players involved in an insurance claim.
- In-house (also called desk) adjusters like Ray, coordinate all of the insurance company activities from their office. They're responsible for investigating, evaluating and settling claims with their policy holders. They do this using sub-contractors for most of the activities required to settle a claim.
- Emergency mitigation companies – are used to contain the damage after a fire or flood.
- Field adjusters – visit the insured property to view/document the damage and determine the appropriate amount the insurance company should pay to settle a claim.
- Forensic engineers – visit the site to determine whether the insurance policy covered the loss claimed. They also help ensure that claims are not fraudulent.
Desk adjusters are ultimately responsible for negotiating a settlement and paying out as little money as possible. You should never forget that insurance companies priority is profitability for their shareholders.
Scheduling the Field Adjuster Visit
On Friday the water mitigation team worked to set up fans and dehumidifiers to circulate the air, to speed up the drying process. The other part of this drying process involves raising the air temperature which I stumbled into when I returned home to a house at 92 degrees (more research needed here; NYTimes article “How to Dry Out a Flooded House” included words of caution about creating a greenhouse.)
Next I focused on reaching the field adjuster to schedule his walkthrough. My challenge was deciding if I needed to fly back to Florida for this one to 2 hour meeting? It took several days sending emails, leaving voicemail and text messages to connect with Clint (he's excused as his wife had just given birth).
When we talked, it seemed like Skype (or Facetime) would work so I could join the walkthrough from Maine. This didn't work out because Clint's cell phone didn't have reception. My son was able to use Skype on his phone but he didn't want to follow Clint around as he took measurements and photos. Ryan wanted to show me everything he'd moved that was sitting on the floor in the house … out to the garage.
After the field adjuster came out to the garage I started finding problems, at least ones I cared about like mold! Quite a few of my wooden Japanese boxes had mold on the bottom/tops because they were wet and sitting on the concrete floor. While I accepted that most of my shoes and boots were moldy and had to be tossed, the biggest loss was one of my sewing machines that was still full of water … OMG.
Talking to Your Insurance Adjuster – Call #2
The day after I found mold in the garage, I called the in-house adjuster to ask what I was supposed to do. He didn't seem interested in the problem and told me to call the water mitigation people. Talk about frustration when you're talking to your insurance company and he essentially blows you off.
He told me I'd be hearing from an engineer that was going to visit the house to inspect the source of the leak. The man clearly didn't want to waste any time on the phone talking to me, saying it would be 7 to 10 days before he could say anything. The only item he offered to send me was a spreadsheet for listing personal property damaged by the flood.
That was my last call with the adjuster as I found too many problems after I arrived back in Florida. I decided it was time to hire a public adjuster … and you can learn why in tomorrow's article.