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Get to Know the Insurance Claims Process

You are in a car accident, your home flooded, or you may require an expensive medical procedure...all situations we believe will be covered by our insurance policies. As consumers though, we often assume too much and don't think twice about reading our policy cover to cover. One of the biggest insurance oversights occurs with claim filing. We'll breakdown the claims filing process for you so you know what to expect when the unexpected occurs.

Who Are You Going to Call?

First things first, contact your agent as soon as you're able to. Your insurance agent is there to guide you through the process and will oftentimes file the claim for you depending on the circumstance.

Most insurance companies have a time limit on which you can file a claim; usually within 24 to 48 hours depending on the type of claim you are filing. This means that if you have an accident, your home floods, or whatever the reason, you need to contact your agent as quickly as possible to ensure that your claim is covered.

Essential Information

When you contact your agent, make sure to have paper and pencil ready to obtain the following information: If you don't know already, find out what your insurance coverages actually cover. Next, find out what your deductible is how much you may have to initially pay out of pocket. Many times a policy will cover the labor and clean up costs of a homeowners or automobile claim, but might not necessarily cover the total cost of important parts (like the cost of a water heater.). If the claim is medical and deemed necessary by your physician, there's a chance your health insurer may not agree. It is worthwhile to know this information in advance.

Write Everything Down

If you have to file a claim, it will come in handy to use a folder that will contain all of the information about the claim. Take the time to write down everything that you can remember... time, place, injuries, damage. Any time you have to spend money on something put the receipts in this folder. If you can, take pictures to prove things were damaged and keep them in this folder. Anything and everything that you think might help your claim should be in this folder. Not only will it help you remember what happened, but all of your documents will be in one place.

Keep a Copy for Your Records

No matter what type of insurance claim you file, it is important to make sure that you keep copies of everything. Whether it is a car accident or a medical claim, you might need this information in the long run.

The Claim Form

Once you have contacted the agent, you will need to fill out a claim form. This usually comes directly from the agent. Instead of waiting for snail mail, you can have your agent email you the form, or - if you don't have an agent, locate the forms on your insurance company's web site. Make sure to take the time to completely fill out the claim form. A claim form with incorrect information can delay the handling process on all levels.

Once the claim form is filled out and sent to your agent or insurance company, expect to hear from the claims adjuster assigned to your file. Depending on the type of claim, you may or may not be interviewed to obtain your version of the incident.

Different Claims, Different Information

Keep in mind the information asked of you depends on the type of claim. For example, an auto insurance claims adjuster must determine who was at fault for the accident and pay damages were due and within your policy limits. A homeowners claim for a flood will usually only cover the damage to your home. If the flood was caused by a broken hot water heater, the water heater would generally not be covered. It is up to the policyholder to know exactly what the policy covers.

Finally, make sure that you follow your insurance company's rules. If you file a claim for every little thing that occurs, many times you are only shooting yourself in the foot. Insurance companies will either raise your premiums or in some cases will decide not to renew your policy if you have what appears to be an exorbitant number of insurance claims. Many times insurance claims fall under a person's deductible to repair or replace. In these cases, you are really not helping yourself; you are only making matters more difficult in the long run.

Julianne Alzamora has 7 years of experience as a freelance writer. Her articles can be seen in several financial websites about investing, investment strategy, personal finance and topics on real estate

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