This article will provide you with the 10 critical water damage insurance claim tips. Water damage insurance protects some homeowners insurance policies against accidental and sudden water damage.
This type of insurance does not cover damage resulting from the homeowners’ failure to maintain the home in good repair or negligence.
• You will understand what water damage insurance is about
• The 10 critical water damage insurance claim tips
• Answers to some frequently asked questions on water damage insurance claims.
The 10 Critical Water Damage Insurance Claim Tips
Let’s look at the 10 critical water damage insurance claims tips.
1. People should determine the source of the water, and they should try taking steps to stop it from flowing.
If an individual is certain it is safe to do so, they should take immediate action to stop more water from flowing.
It might mean shutting off their home’s main valve or an individual water supply valve, known as a “stop.” Stops leading to their washing machine, dishwasher, toilet, or icemaker can typically be turned off by hand to suspend the water flow.
By the way, it’s a nice idea to research water leak automatic shutoff valves and detection systems before disaster strikes. With one small investment, people could prevent a serious claim and save money via a home insurance discount.
2. People should determine if their home insurance policy covers their water damage.
In 2018, nearly one in 4 home insurance claims resulting from water damage. From the year 2014-2016, the number of water damage claims in the United States surpassed the number of losses caused by hurricanes and fires.
What do these numbers imply? Water damage is common. But not every water damage is covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy.
As a general rule, water damage is covered by homeowner insurance if it is accidental or sudden. In other words, people couldn’t have predicted it would happen. Water damage is NOT covered by the insurance when it’s the result of neglect or a lack of home maintenance ]
Water Damage Covered by Home Insurance includes
• Accidental, sudden plumbing or appliance issues
• Frozen, burst pipes
• Leaking roof
• Ice dams
Water Damage NOT Covered by Home Insurance include
• Groundwater getting into the basement
• Leaks from an old, unmaintained roof
• Damage from toilets that go unrepaired or long-term leaky faucets
• Floodwater or rapid-thaw water getting into the basement
• Water pipe or sewer backup
• Leaks from old, corroded pipes
• Mold, rot, or fungus
3. Call the insurance agent and report the claim.
When it comes to water damage, time is very important. According to FEMA, mildew and mold can develop within 24-48 hours after exposure.
So, if people’s pipe bursts on Friday night, they don’t have to wait until Monday morning to let their agent or insurance company know what happens. Some carriers maintain 24/7 hotlines to guide people through the claims process and advise them on cleanup.
Unless they can completely clean and dry the area on their own, it makes sense to contact a water damage or restoration company.
Insurance companies may not be willing to recommend a specific water damage company, but the company should be able to help people identify several local options to choose from.
4. Get the water/moisture professionally cleaned up.
A water damage/restoration company must often pump out water and thoroughly dry any surfaces before moisture/mildew spreads. If mold is already present, the water damage/restoration company may need to apply special cleaning solutions after ventilating the wet area.
Water damage and restoration companies (WD/RC) are not all created equal. Some may try to take advantage of an emergency where people need help quickly.
Before signing any work orders or contracts, ensure the individual gets an estimate and written proof that the WD/RC company is licensed/insured. Read the company’s reviews online and ask for references from clients in their town or neighborhood.
People should remember that the WD/RC they choose does not have to be the same company they used to repair ceilings, cabinets, walls, flooring, woodwork, etc., after the water is gone.
Some water damage companies offer contracting services in addition to mold and water remediation, but that doesn’t imply they are the best choice for the repairs. Again, people shouldn’t agree to additional work or sign contracts without getting a quote and speaking with another contractor.
5. Determine if people need to leave home.
In serious cases, water damage can lead to unhealthy or unsafe living conditions inside the home. Major flooding can draw household wastewater or chemicals into the mix—not something people should be wading through. The risk of electrocution and mold spores contaminating the air.
If individual suspects any of these issues are at play, they should ask their agent and their WD/RC team to advise them on the safest course of action.
Some insurance policies include dining expenses and hotel accommodations if people are forced to vacate. But people will want to understand how much (if any) coverage they have for these items and how they are expected to front and catalog these expenses, but if they stay and eat elsewhere, they should be prepared to save receipts.
6. Take photos of the damaged area and any damaged possessions.
People’s home restoration team will likely take photos of the damaged area, but it’s more advisable for people to take photos of the damaged area.
People should also take photos of any objects that need to be replaced or cleaned. With water damage, objects that get water on them are part of the loss.
Objects in closets or drawers where mold has spread should be professionally cleaned. People may be entitled to reimbursement for those expenses.
7. Meet with the adjuster.
The insurance company will send an adjuster to the individual’s home as soon as possible. The adjuster will evaluate the damage and take measurements and photos.
The adjuster will ask questions about when and how the damage occurred. His goal is twofold. First, he’s looking to determine if anybody is at fault, and secondly, he is trying to estimate how much it will cost to repair the damage.
People may be thinking, what if it was their fault? Don’t worry. Unless the person intentionally created the problem, like insurance fraud, their insurance policy is there for them.
Insurance is intended for accidents. Even dumb accidents. If people leave a candle burning overnight and their house burns down, they are still covered—even though it was their fault.
The same principle applies to water damage insurance. If people install their toilets (improperly, by accident), and water starts coming out through their ceiling, they are still covered.
However, the company is interested in discovering if it was another person’s fault. Say, for example, people didn’t improperly install that toilet; say it was a plumber (licensed) who should have known better.
In that case, the insurance company and adjuster may look to “subrogate,” which means going after his insurance company for the damage caused by the plumber.
8. Understand your loss settlement
After the adjuster evaluation, they will send a written estimate of what they think it should cost to repair the damage. They will probably create a list of line items for materials and materials (drywall, tile, paint, insulation mortar, etc.). Depending on the claim size, they may also issue a check for some or all of this amount so that they can get started on repairs.
People should be prepared; the settlement figure may seem a little low. Unless their home insurance policy was written to provide “replacement cost value,” the total of their estimate is based on ACV or an actual cash value.
ACV represents what the property is worth today—not what they paid for it or what it would cost to make it new. So, for example, if a person spent $20K on new cabinets 10 years ago, their loss settlement would reimburse them for $20K minus depreciation.
Insurance company settlement checks are made to people and their mortgage lenders. It means people must send the check to the mortgage company and get the check endorsed by the Loss Draft department before they can deposit or cash the funds.
This extra step can add time and frustration to the reimbursement process, but it is designed to ensure people lender knows there was a damaging event at their client’s home. Once they know, they will require a home inspection after the repair work has been completed.
9. Meet with different contractors.
Now that the water is all gone and the danger of any mildew or mold has been eliminated, it’s time to rebuild/repair the affected area. For small jobs, meeting with different contractors may not be necessary.
After all, the difference between a hundred dollars may not be worth the time people will spend contacting, interviewing, and visiting professionals.
On the other hand, it makes sense to find the best partner if people are looking at a major project—especially one that involves multiple subcontractors.
Again, their insurance company won’t tell them who to use. It’s up to them to vet contractors, ensure they are properly insured and licensed, and compare their quotes against the settlement figure from their adjuster.
Another advantage of meeting with different contractors is that if an individual thinks their adjuster’s estimate is too low, it will help to show that more than one professional agrees.
10. Negotiate the settlement for repairs.
For small claims, negotiation might not be an issue. But larger projects usually pose challenges in getting adjuster and contractor aligned. Here’s where an individual independent insurance agent can also be a resource.
If an individual doesn’t have the strength to haggle over what constitutes like-kind replacement materials, they should ask their agent to play mediator. The agent has more experience with this process and knows how to frame the case the individual is trying to make.
Although people cannot expect their insurance company to pay for upgrades to their home, they can use this opportunity to update the damaged area—whether it’s a bathroom, kitchen, or basement—and pay for it themselves.
Some homeowners who suffer a water damage event don’t want to put back the same old bathroom tiles or laminate countertops.
If this matches the situation, people should be honest about their goals and plans with their adjuster. Work with their contractor to calculate the difference between repairing the bathroom as it was and creating the bathroom they want.
For people to mitigate water damage, they should have older homes inspected by a licensed plumber every 5 years, use steel-braided supply lines on washing machines, replace older water heaters, and turn off the supply lines when the machine is not in use.
How do I get the most out of my water-damaged claim?
People can maximize the compensation they receive for a water damage claim by taking the time to document their losses.
By holding onto all repair receipts, taking pictures of the damage, and speaking with a legal professional, they can make sure that their insurance company pays for the cost of their expenses.
What items can you claim for water damage?
Water damage covered by homeowners insurance includes Accidental leaks, such as an appliance leak, like a broken dishwasher or washing machine. Burst pipes include a frozen pipe that bursts, but not if people neglect to keep the home properly heated.
How do I maximize my insurance claim?
People should discover their claim strategy based on their reasonable understanding of their coverages, exclusions, endorsements, and policy limits. Document everything.
Present their position and documentation to their insurance claims adjuster. Negotiate for the settlement they want, need, and deserve.
What is considered accidental water damage?
Accidental and sudden water damage covers overflow or discharge of steam or water from within heating, plumbing, air conditioning system, or household appliance.
Can I claim house insurance for water damage?
Under some standard home insurance policies, if water damage occurs accidentally or suddenly from a source inside their home, it will be covered by their homeowner’s insurance. If the water comes from outside their home, it will not be covered by their standard policy.
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