Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid
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How can I make sure I get my insurance company to pay?
- You first have to make a claim. You may have claims under homeowner's, renter's, car or flood insurance.
- If any insurance policy may cover any of your damage, call your agent, broker, or insurance company as soon as possible and report your loss.
- Do this even if you are not sure you have coverage.
- Do this even if you do not know if your claim will exceed your deductible.
- Make sure you write down the name of the person you speak to.
- Also write down the claim number the person you call gives you.
- You do not have to have a copy of your policy to make a claim.
- If you had to leave your home, make sure you give your insurance agent an address and telephone number where you can be reached.
What if I can't get through to my insurance company over the phone?
- Write a letter telling the company about your loss.
- Make sure to keep a copy of the letter.
What if I live in a condominium?
- If you own a condominium, you should look at both the coverage provisions in your association insurance policy, and the coverage under your individual unit coverage owner's insurance policy.
How do I get an insurance adjuster out to my home to assess the damage?
- Ask the insurance company to send an adjuster to look at your property.
- To protect your rights, you should do this in writing.
- If necessary, you can call the insurance department for the state where your property is located.
- The number for the Iowa Insurance Division is 515-281-5705.
What can I do to prepare for the insurance adjuster?
- Try to make a list of all property damaged or destroyed. Make your list as complete as you can. For each item, include a description, the date of purchase or approximate age, the cost at time of purchase and what you estimate it will cost to replace the item. Make a copy of the list so you can give your agent one and keep one.
- Take pictures of the damaged areas.
- Write down the names, addresses and telephone numbers of witnesses.
- Obtain repair estimates.
- Try to locate original bills, canceled checks and receipts for lost items. Submit copies of these with your claim.
- Keep a record of your expenses. This includes what you pay for other housing.
What if I cannot wait for the insurance adjuster?
- Some insurance policies reimburse you for temporary housing relocation costs while your home is being repaired and for car rental costs while your car is being repaired or replaced.
- Check your policy or call your insurance company.
- If your situation is desperate, make sure that you let the insurance company know.
- If the insurance company agrees you are covered, ask for an advance payment toward your losses.
- Due to the extreme amount of damage caused by a disaster, insurance companies may recommend you start repairing the damaged property before the adjuster's visit.
- You should get the insurance company's permission before doing so. Do not start repairs before you talk with someone from the company.
- Many companies will also give you an emergency advance to cover some repair costs.
What if the insurance company offers to pay me some money now?
- You should carefully read any release or waiver before cashing any check from the insurance company.
- Sometimes, the insurance company will make you sign a paper saying the check is the full and final payment of your claim.
- If you have any question about the settlement offer, call a lawyer before settling and before cashing a check that is for payment in full.
- Before you settle with the insurance company, make sure you know the full extent of your damage and the full value of your claim.
- It may be important for you to get estimates before you agree to a specific amount. You may even need to get the work completed first.
How much should my insurance company pay me?
- Read your policy.
- Most insurance companies will only reimburse you for reasonable cost of repair.
- If prices quoted for repairs seem too high, get another estimate.
- Always try to get your insurance company's agreement before undertaking repairs.
- Remember that your claim will only be approved up to your policy limit, even if the repair costs are reasonable.
What if the insurance company denies my claim or offers me less than I think I am entitled to receive?
- You should ask the insurance company to give you its reasons in writing.
- If you think the insurance company may be wrong, consult a lawyer.
- Most insurance policies give you only one year from the date of the damage to bring any suit against the insurance company for failure to pay a claim.
- If you do not file suit in time, you may be unable to get anything.
What if my insurance does not cover all of the damages to my home or personal property?
- You may be eligible for benefits under the FEMA program if you are unable to pay for repair or replacement of essential parts of your home or essential personal property.
- See the FEMA section of this resource.
- If you keep all of your repair and replacement receipts, you may be able to file your losses with IRS on your income tax returns next year. For information, you may call IRS at 1-800-829-1040.
· Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans.
· To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:
o call 800-532-1275
o Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161
o apply online at iowalegalaid.org
· If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, you can look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website – iowabar.org. A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.