Factors That Affect the Timeline of a Property Damage EstimateEvery property damage claim has specific details and factors that can affect how long it takes for the insurance company to finalize an estimate. That said, some common factors that can impact the timeline of your case are:
- The extent of the property damage. The more significant the damage to your property, the more time the insurance company will spend investigating your claim. The insurance company will not want to pay more money for your claim than they have to, so they will take longer to investigate your claim to ensure you have not inflated the damage to your property.
- The type of property damage. Insurance companies may take more time investigating certain property damage cases than others. For example, an insurance company will likely spend more time investigating fire damage to a property to ensure you did not set the fire intentionally. On the other hand, they may not take as much time to investigate a water damage claim if there is a clear cause (a leaky roof, broken pipes, bad weather, etc.), and you are not to blame.
- Whether your claim is for a residential or commercial property. Insurance companies are more likely to investigate a property damage claim for a commercial property than a residential property because it often costs more to fix damage to a commercial property. The more expensive the claim is, the more time the insurance company will take to investigate the claim to keep the amount they have to pay to a minimum.
- When you submit your claim. You want to submit your claim as soon as possible while still thoroughly documenting all the damage to your property. Most insurance companies require you to submit a property damage claim within a specific time after the damage has occurred. If you miss that deadline, you will likely have to jump through more legal hoops before they consider and evaluate your claim.
- Your insurance adjuster. Every insurance adjuster will have a different approach; some work more quickly than others. If the adjuster has additional questions for you after their initial investigation or comes back multiple times to review the damage to your property, your case will likely take longer. If the insurance adjuster is dragging their feet, you might be able to talk to the insurance company and see if someone else can take over your case.
- Whether or not you hire an attorney. Many small and preventable bureaucratic or technical mistakes could delay valid claims. A lawyer can review all your paperwork before you submit your claim to make sure everything is in order and reduce the chance of unnecessary delays. An attorney can also help you gather evidence to substantiate your claim, which might help the insurance adjuster reach their final estimate. Finally, hiring an attorney shows the insurance company that you are taking your case seriously, which may compel them to act promptly to avoid a prolonged legal battle.
The Timeline of a Property Damage Insurance ClaimIf you have not needed to file an insurance claim for property damage before now, here are the basic steps in the claims process:
- Document your losses. Take the time to document all the damage to your property before you submit your claim. Visual evidence like photos goes a long way to supplement written estimates or other evidence. Obtaining a written estimate of how much the repairs will cost will also give the insurance company more information and help speed up your claim. Finally, hiring a professional loss assessor to review the damage to your property can help substantiate your case.
- Review your policy. Going over your policy in detail so you know your covered losses (and which ones are not) can save you a lot of time and hassle. You should also review your policy before submitting your claim to ensure you know your rights and potential options as your case progresses.
- Submit your claim. After gathering as much evidence as possible, it is time to complete the paperwork and submit your claim to the insurance company. Include all the pictures, written records, and other evidence you have along with your claim. You want to submit your claim as quickly as possible while still doing your diligence when documenting the damage to your property. If you wait too long to submit your claim, it could cause unnecessary delays.
- Meet with the insurance adjuster. The insurance company will not pay out your claim until one of their adjusters has a chance to review and examine the damage. This makes sense, as the insurance company does not want to be the victim of fraud, but the adjuster will also be looking for reasons to deny or reduce the value of your claim. You should be honest and respectful toward the insurance adjuster, but do not hesitate to speak up if the company is acting in bad faith.
- Wait for the insurance company's first estimate. After you have met with the insurance adjuster and have had a chance to look over the damage to your property, the insurance company will provide you with an initial estimate of the value of your claim. This likely isn't their final offer, and they will look to see how you respond to the proposal. If the offer is not enough to cover the damage to your property, you have the right to negotiate for a better one. This is something a property damage attorney can help you with.
- Negotiate with the insurance company. If you do not accept the insurance company's first offer, it is time to begin negotiations. You can gather additional evidence to support your claim, which might convince the insurance adjuster to make you a better offer. But remember, keep calm throughout the negotiation process. Otherwise, the insurance company is unlikely to give you a better deal.
- Settle your case or prepare for trial. There are two possible outcomes once you have opened settlement negotiations with the insurance company. The first and more preferable outcome is you and the insurance company reach a compromise everyone can live with. If this happens, you will review the agreement, sign it, and the insurance company will cut you a check. But if negotiations break down and the insurance company will not negotiate in good faith, you may need to take them to court to get a fair settlement. If it is necessary to take your case to court, make sure you hire a property damage attorney with trial experience.
What to Do if the Insurance Company Will Not Make You a Fair OfferIf you have worked through the claims process and the insurance company refuses to make you a reasonable offer, you need to speak with a property damage attorney as soon as possible. You will need help to make a better case for compensation and force the insurance company to honor the terms of their policy. A property damage lawyer has the training, knowledge, and experience to defend your rights and help you secure the money you need.
How You Can Speed up and Maximize Your Property Damage ClaimWhile the insurance company is the one who will ultimately determine how long your property damage claim will take, there are some things you can do to help the process along and give yourself a better chance of recovering maximum compensation. These steps include:
- Filing your claim promptly. You do not want to give an insurance company any excuse to delay or deny your claim. Submitting your claim by the deadline specified in your policy can help you avoid any potential bureaucratic delays with your case.
- Including as much information as possible with your initial claim. The more evidence you include when you submit your claim, the harder it will be for the insurance company to argue against you. This can shorten the negotiation process and increase your claim's value. In addition to pictures of the property damage and written repair estimates, a report from a professional loss assessor can go a long way toward bolstering your case.
- Never speculating on how the damage occurred. When you submit your property damage claim, you must include information on how extensive the damage is and how much it will cost to fix it. Do not say anything about how you think it happened. You don't want to mistakenly say something that implies that your actions or inaction led to or contributed to the damage.
- Being honest and courteous toward the insurance adjuster. The insurance adjuster is the person with the most influence over the outcome of your case, so you want to stay on their good side. It is OK to disagree with an insurance adjuster's assessment of your property damage, but remain civil throughout your discussions. Similarly, never exaggerate the extent of the damage to your property. The adjuster will most likely figure out what you are doing, which could lead to you facing insurance fraud charges.
- Being patient and letting the process play out. Getting upset because your claim is not moving as fast as you like will not get you anywhere and could backfire. In the same vein, you do not want to give up because your claim is taking too long, as this could mean you settle for an offer that will not cover the full extent of your losses.
- Hiring a lawyer. A lawyer is your best weapon and ally when fighting against an insurance company. A property damage attorney can protect your rights and ensure the insurance company honors the terms of their policy. A lawyer can also review any documents you submit to ensure there are no errors that could lead to costly delays.