How to Ensure Prompt Payment of Insurance Claims

Never store your insurance claims evidence where you keep the insured items.
Never store your insurance claims evidence where you keep the insured items. (Image: burning image by .shock from

Getting paid promptly for your insurance claim depends upon good communication, the presentation of adequate claims evidence and a strategic approach to working with the insurance company as go through the process. This means planning for the claim when you obtain the insurance, not when you suffer the loss.

Gather and safely store photos, receipts, appraisals and any other documents you can provide to prove the value of the insured items and that you possess them. If you buy homeowner's insurance, for instance, you should make a video of the contents of your house. Document important, costly or unusual items with sales slips, appraisals or anything else that shows you actually have this item and that it costs what you will later claim. Make back-up copies of your claims evidence and store the backup copy someplace other than your home or wherever you keep your insured items. The documents can disappear in a robbery or burn up in a fire.

Phone your insurance company promptly when you suffer a loss. Connect with the claims agent who will handle your case. Get her name, fax and e-mail information. If you don't connect immediately with your claims agent--this often happens--don't just leave your name on her voice mail and wait for a call. Keep calling until you connect.

Make notes of every phone call and copies of everything you fax or mail to your claims agent. Be sure you understand your agent's claim process and what he will need from you to support your claim.

Talk to the claims agent regularly. A typical claims agent will handle hundreds of claims simultaneously. Inevitably she will handle some claims better than others. If you establish early on that you will persist with frequent follow-ups your chances of prompt claims settlement will increase dramatically.

Send your agent an e-mail with receipt acknowledgment after every telephone conversation, confirming the substance of the conversation in your e-mail. If the agent promised you something in that conversation clearly state in your e-mail what the agent promised, Unless the agent responds with a written disclaimer--saying, effectively, "I didn't promise you this"--your e-mail documenting the promise becomes "prima facie" evidence of the promise. "Prima facie," Latin for "on first appearance," and meaning "on the face of it," means evidence sufficiently robust for the court to consider unless the insurance company can submit contradictory evidence. No doubt your case will settle without a suit--almost all insurance claims do--but when your agent receives your confirming e-mails she will know that you intend to pursue your claim vigorously and, even more important, that you have an effective process for pursuing it.

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