Any event that results in having to file an insurance claim can be stressful. Whatever type of claim you face, the circumstances will require you to know what to do and when. The last thing you want is to have unanswered questions preventing you from taking the best course of action. Here we will address the most commonly asked Claims questions, so that when the time comes, you will know exactly what to do and what to expect.
When faced with a circumstance that results in damage to people or property, your first priority is always to get safe. You are also obligated to take steps to stop or minimize the damage to your property, if at all possible. It is important to document the scene with photos and videos that can be used to investigate your claim later on. If emergency personnel are on the scene, listen to their instructions and collect the police report to document who was on the scene.
What are the benefits of filing your claim immediately?
Once you file a claim - known as the First Notice of Loss - a claim examiner will be assigned to you. This examiner will contact you and deploy a strategy to handle the claim depending on the severity, which may include emergency services like board-up, water mitigation or tree removal. The examiner will review documentation and information you provide to determine what is needed. Often the examiner will send an adjuster or contractor from Stillwater's approved contractor network to determine the value of the loss.
Should you ever move forward with repairs prior to speaking with your claim examiner?
We know how important it is to get your property restored as soon as possible; however, moving forward on repair work without your claim examiner's determination could put you at risk of not having your claim fully covered. Work with your examiner throughout the claims investigation, and provide any documentation requested of you so that the value of the loss can be determined quickly. The examiner will take your information, estimates and market rate into consideration when determining the value of a claim.
A deductible is the amount a policyholder pays out of pocket before an insurance provider will pay any expenses. People often wonder if they should file a claim if they have a deductible that exceeds the value of their loss. The good news is you don't have to figure that out on your own; Stillwater's claim examiner's role is to help you sort through your coverages and make decisions. If you report a claim, and it ends up your loss value is less than your deductible, the claim will only show up in your history with a $0 payout associated with it.
You will be paid the fair amount to make the repairs necessary to restore your property to its prior condition, minus any applicable deductible, depreciation or other offsets that may be included in your policy. For example, you may have a sublimit for jewelry in your homeowner's policy, in which case your payout for jewelry will not exceed that amount. Sometimes depreciation may be applied to a claim payout; this is when your insurance company holds back a portion of the money for damaged items based on their age or condition. This money is released to you once you have paid to repair or replace the items.
Your contract contains all the details you need to know about your coverage and rights. The claim examiner assigned to you will provide explanation of the insurance contract and how your claim payout will be determined. If you have a lienholder on your property or vehicle, the claims check may have the lienholder as the payee. Often the lienholder will want to inspect the property to ensure the repairs have been made. You will have to contact your lienholder for instructions on how to process the check.
Many factors contribute to the rate you pay for your insurance policy, which are reevaluated upon the renewal of your policy. Though not every claim will result in an increase to your rate at renewal, the frequency and types of claims may affect your insurance rates in the future. Important to know: You could put yourself at risk by NOT filing a claim; for example, if you are involved in an accident with anyone else that you have not reported, and that person decides to sue you months later, it will be more difficult for your insurance carrier to represent you. You purchase insurance to protect yourself and to recover from a loss - use it!
At Stillwater, our policyholders are so satisfied with our handling of their claims that 9 out of 10 say they will recommend us to their friends and family. Stillwater's around-the-clock claims reporting ensures that in the event of a claim, you will receive fast, knowledgeable and empathetic claims handling by professionals committed to the highest standards.
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