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What to do when making a homeowner's insurance claim

This is one of the roughest winters in recent U.S. history, and the Southeast was not spared from bad weather. The homes of some of our readers in Florida may have suffered damage from ice and snow. Repairs to roofs can quickly get expensive, so many homeowners will be making a claim on their insurance policy to pay for them.

The process of getting a fair settlement from your homeowner’s insurance provider can be difficult, and it may be necessary to get an attorney to help if your claim is denied. But you can take steps to prepare to deal with the insurance company.

First, you should read your policy carefully. Read all the declarations, endorsements and riders. Look for covered risks, especially ones related to what happened to your house. That way, you will know what you are covered for, and won’t have to rely on the insurance company’s interpretation.

When it comes time to call the insurance company, remember to write everything down: when you called, who you talked to, what he or she told you. Careful documentation can be helpful if there is a dispute later.

Keep in mind that you do not have to accept the initial settlement offer. Adjuster’s estimates of what it may cost to make repairs may not be enough, and fall short of your coverage. You have the right to return the settlement check, if you feel it is less than you deserve, and ask for the adjuster to revise his or her report that led to the settlement.

Finally, many claims are quite large or complex. The gap between what is needed and what the insurance company wants to pay can get quite wide. In those cases, hiring an attorney can pay off in the long run.

Source: CBS News, “When winter weather leads to a damage claim,” Ray Martin, Feb. 20, 2014

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