Property Insurance Claims: Negotiating Unfamiliar Terrain

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They might work for an “independent “ adjusting firm hired by the insurance company, but they still represent the insurer’s interests and not yours.

Evaluate Your Settlement

When it is time to meet with the insurance company adjuster to settle your loss, if he or she does not have full authority to negotiate it, you can choose not to commit to a final settlement amount at that time. An adjuster who does not have the full authority to settle will have to report to a superior before committing to pay a certain sum.

This limited authority protects the insurance company from having its adjuster make an agreement before the company has fully evaluated it. You should protect your interests in the same way. Study any offer or proposal carefully and insist on the option of holding a follow-up meeting where the settlement can be discussed again.

Be careful if asked to sign a general release as part of your settlement. You are entitled to collect your loss payment under your policy just by filing an agreed proof of loss. By signing a proof of loss you do not give up your right to reopen the claim if additional damages are later discovered. A general release, however, will forfeit your right to reopen the claim.

It is also important to be aware of the time limits in your policy. Some policies require that you file the claim, together with a proof of loss, within a specified period of time. Additional time constraints might also apply to the filing of any lawsuits.

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As this article suggests, numerous issues will confront you as the claims process proceeds. Some will be obvious and others will be much more subtle. Think long and hard before you enter into the process on your own. Insurance company adjusters and their experts are extremely knowledgeable about insurance policies and the claims process. It is never wise to enter into the process unprepared if you are not as knowledgeable or experienced as the other side. This may be a prescription for disappointment in your recovery. Like many businesses, you could need help in leveling the playing field.

As a final thought, never lose sight of the fact that an insurance claim is a cooperative and adversarial process at the same time. The more you appreciate this reality, the better your chances will be of achieving a full and timely adjustment of your claim.

Never lose sight of the fact that an insurance claim is a cooperative and adversarial process at the same time!


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