When faced with the unforeseen, whether it's just a fender bender or a major disaster, the insurance claim filing process can be confusing, if not overwhelming. To avoid headaches, take the basic steps that will ensure that your claim gets paid.
New York, NY January 25, 2005 -- A lot of people have a love-hate relationship with insurance: They hate to pay those expensive premiums month in and month out, but love it when insurance comes through for them when they really need it. Witness these recent comments from members of the Armchair Millionaire community: "We just had a baby and the bill for delivery only was over $11,000. We paid a $500 deductible. Looking at my bi-weekly premium, it would have taken me about 8 1/2 years to pay the same amount out of pocket if I had paid the same amount as my bi-weekly premium" --Lee S.
"Unfortunately, I got rear-ended this year by a fool with no insurance and the bill was $3,500. My insurance company came through for me just great! I love 'em!" -- mysticaltyger
Having the right amounts of the right kinds of insurance is a cornerstone to financial security. However, all the insurance in the world won't do you any good if it doesn't pay up when the chips are down. My checklist shows how to make a claim successfully.
The Armchair Millionaire's Checklist for Making a Successful Insurance Claim
Collect the details. If you're involved in an accident, get the names and phone numbers of everyone involved. If cars are involved, make note of the makes, models and license tag numbers. If possible, get names and contact information of any witnesses. Document damage as fully as you can--a camera or video recorder will come in very handy. For health insurance claims, make sure that your health care provider gives your insurance company full details on your condition and treatment.
Be timely. Call your insurance agent as soon as possible after the event. Some policies may deny your claim if you fail to notify to company within a specified time frame.
Double-check your information. Many claims are denied because they contain erroneous or insufficient information, so verify the accuracy of everything you provide to your claims adjuster.
Keep good records. Keep all correspondence you receive from the insurance company. When you speak to your agent or an adjuster on the phone, make a note on the date and time of the call and what was discussed.
Know your policy. Many claims are denied simply because the policy does not provide coverage for the damage claimed. Review your benefits to understand exactly how you're covered. If you have any doubts, ask your insurance agent.
Skip the small stuff. Have $300 worth of damage to your home and a $250 deductible on your homeowner's insurance? Consider just paying for it yourself, and preventing a possible future hike in your premium. An important exception is when someone has been hurt. In this case, always notify your insurance company.
Not satisfied? Complain about it. If you believe you were not treated fairly in getting your claim honored, make a written complaint to your insurance company, including details and documentation about your case. Ask for a written explanation for why your claim was not satisfactorily paid. If you're still not happy, you can file a complaint with your state's insurance department. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has links to all state insurance departments at its Web site at www.naic.org.
The Bottom Line: When faced with the unforeseen, whether it's just a fender bender or a major disaster, the insurance claim filing process can be confusing, if not overwhelming. To avoid headaches, take the basic steps that will ensure that your claim gets paid.
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Lewis Schiff founded the Armchair Millionaire Web site in 1997. His first book, The Armchair Millionaire, was published in 2001. Schiff's newest report, "How to Know When You Are Rich," is now available at www.armchairmillionaire.com.