Get The Most From Your Insurance Dollars; Know When to File an Insurance Claim, Says The I.I.I. -- I.I.I. Offers Tips to Help Consumers Navigate through the Claims Process

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New York, April 29 --- To maximize your insurance dollars, knowing when to file a claim is as important as knowing how to file a claim, says the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)

Insurance is designed to provide reimbursement for major disasters such as a hurricane that rips the roof off your home or a fire that destroys your house and everything in it.

"Insurance policies are priced and structured to pay for disasters that would financially ruin most people," says Jeanne M. Salvatore, vice president of consumer affairs for the I.I.I. "They are for catastrophes that are sudden and accidental. Insurance is not designed to provide reimbursement for everyday maintenance problems."

The costs associated with keeping your home in good condition are not covered by standard home insurance policies. If for instance, there is a small leak in a pipe under your sink, it is your responsibility as a homeowner to fix that leak before it causes major damage. On the other hand, if despite all of your best efforts to winterize your home, the pipes burst, the damage would generally be covered by homeowners insurance, says Salvatore.

"One of the most efficient ways to maximize your insurance dollars is to raise your deductible," says Salvatore. "Raising your deductible from $500 to $1,000 could reduce your homeowners insurance premium by as much as 25 percent."

"If you take a higher deductible, you should consider putting the savings aside to pay for routine maintenance costs as well as putting the money toward the cost of paying for out-of-pocket losses below the deductible if you do have a claim," says Salvatore.

If you have a claim, the I.I.I. suggests that:

  • Report any burglary or theft to the police.
    Get a copy of the police report, as well as the officer's name and contact information.

  • Notify your insurance agent as soon as possible.
    Find out if you're covered for the loss and ask questions to make sure you understand the claims process.
  • Document your loss.
    Prepare a list of damaged items. Save receipts from any additional expenses you may have incurred to make temporary repairs or if you have to find other accommodations while your home is being rebuilt.
  • Fill out all claim forms correctly and promptly.
    Most insurance companies place time limits on filing claims, so it is important to get the process going as soon as possible.
  • Keep good records.
    Make copies of all claim forms and receipts before sending them to your insurance company. Get the name and phone number of insurance company personnel and anyone else you may have dealt with regarding your loss such as contractors or roofers.

The vast majority of claims are paid quickly and fairly. But if you have any difficulty, the better you document your claim the easier it will be to get assistance if you need it, says Salvatore. Throughout the claims process, keep your agent informed so that he or she can be ready to help you in the event of a delay or disagreement. If you and your company's claims adjuster can't agree on the price of your loss, contact your agent or insurance company's claim department. Provide proper documentation regarding why you are not pleased with the settlement. If you and your insurer still can't come to an agreement, find out if your policy allows for either arbitration or some form of independent appraisal process. You can also contact your state insurance department for their assistance.

For additional information on the claims process, consumers can access the I.I.I.'s website at www.iii.org

The Insurance Information Institute is a non-profit, communications organization supported by the property/casualty insurance business.

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