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Protect Yourself

October 25, 2007

Homeowner claims: Increase your payouts

It should be clear by now that the prudent course is not to assume that your insurance company will automatically offer you all you’re entitled to. Even before the insurance adjuster arrives, contact a few contractors in your area to get estimates of what it will cost to restore your home to its original condition.If the insurer matches those estimates, great. If not, you’ll have a better sense of how much more you need to push for. If your carrier won’t budge from an offer you feel is too low, invoke the appraisal clause that’s part of most homeowner policies.

You and the insurer both hire appraisers, and they try to agree on a binding settlement. If they can’t, an umpire selected by the appraisers or a judge will arrive at a figure.

If you feel the adjuster you’ve been dealing with is stalling or delaying your claim, explain your view of the situation in a letter to the claims manager who oversees the adjuster and request that the manager intercede to expedite the claim.

If that doesn’t bring satisfaction, move up to the regional claims manager and, if necessary, the executive in charge of the claims department. And if you have replacement-value coverage and receive only the actual cash-value portion of your claim initially, keep meticulous receipts of what you shell out for materials and labor.

You’ll need them to claim the share that was held back once the job is done. Also be aware that many insurers may be willing to advance the full replacement cost up front once you sign a contract with a builder to do repairs – if you ask.

So ask.

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