The Claims Process
If you have suffered a loss, here are questions you should ask and things you should know before you file a claim.
Am I covered?
The answer to this question is not the same for everyone who has suffered a loss. Homeowners policies do not always have the same coverage. It is very important to read your policy to determine what is covered, and the level of coverage that exists. If you cannot locate your policy, contact your insurance agent or company immediately. Your agent or company will usually be able to address your questions quickly and accurately. Many companies have Disaster Claim Teams that have been sent to the area.
The standard homeowners insurance coverage will cover most of your loss. Most policies have deductibles that will apply. Coverage will usually cover the replacement cost for the damaged portion of your home, including any upgrades that are required by local codes when damage is repaired. Personal property will be covered for replacement cost only if specifically stated in your policy, but there are usually specific restrictions or requirements in obtaining the replacement cost reimbursement. If you are unable to live in your home due to damage, you will likely have coverage for reasonable expenses incurred for temporary accommodations, subject to policy limits. This coverage will usually not cover all expenses, just those above your usual monthly expense. Most contracts cover the expense of debris removal from you home. This coverage is usually provided in addition to the policy limit restriction that applies to the repair of the damage to your home or garage.
What can I expect?
The rebuilding process is never as quick as we wish it could be. With the widespread extensive damage that has been sustained in the area, the insurance companies will be hard pressed to be able to provide the type of expeditious service that we all would like. The claims settlement statutes dictate that companies must handle claims in a responsive manner. However, some of the time frames that are established in the law allow a company up to 60 days to respond to some issues. Most companies will be much more responsive than that. You can expect responses to most of your concerns or problems within a day or two. Though it is not required, some companies have set up programs that allow their on-site adjusters to issue checks in advance to cover some of the additional living expenses and replacement of some essential person property. Once you have made contact with your company adjuster, ask him/her about the availability of such programs.
You can avoid many of the problems that can be experienced in the removal of the debris and the rebuilding process by making sure that you coordinate closely with the company adjuster. Remember to ask the contractor if he/she is licensed by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (required by law) as a building contractor. Get all proposals in writing, and be sure the contractor's name, phone number, address, and license number is on the proposal.
Read your policy and REMEMBER:
- Property and casualty insurance coverages are not mandated by law and are subject to policy provisions and coverages.
- No policy covers everything. Policy coverage is limited to the policy provisions and is subject to the policy's limitations, deductibles, and exclusions.
- In some cases, personal property, including machinery, needs to be added to a schedule or policy (with an endorsement) before any coverage would apply.
If you have a question about your insurance:
Contact your insurance agent and/or company with questions about your policy and the coverage you have.
If you have a problem with your insurance company, call:
Consumer Services Center
Minnesota Department of Commerce
Toll Free: 1-800-657-3602 (Greater MN)
The Consumer Services Center helps consumers with questions or concerns about their insurance company. You may also check on the status of a license held by an insurance agent or company. In addition, if there is a dispute with a licensee, the Consumer Services Center will attempt to resolve the matter informally. If the dispute cannot be resolved, the consumer will be asked to file a written complaint with the Commerce Department in order to begin a formal investigation.
When filing a complaint:
- Write, in your own words, the details of the dispute
- Include as many details as possible such as dates, what was said, policy and claim numbers, etc.
- Provide copies of relevant documents
- Include your phone number and return address
The Commerce Department Enforcement Division investigates written complaints against licensees. Investigations seek to determine if there has been a violation of Minnesota statutes or rules. If a violation has occurred, administrative sanctions (license revocation, fines, etc.) may be taken. The department attempts to secure the payment of claims or obtain refunds for consumers who have been victimized by licensee misconduct.