Managing the Claims Experience

The process of reconstructing your home following a loss can be long and laborious. Often before you can begin rebuilding, you have to navigate the insurance claims process. We know that consumers are often confused and stressed by the claims process, and offer this summary to help manage the experience.

Filing a Claim

  • Call the company or visit a mobile claims center to start your claim. If you cannot locate the company or agent’s number, call the Consumer Services Division at 800-852-5494. 
  • While your first instinct following a disaster may be to start cleaning up, it is important for your insurer to have an accurate account of the destruction. Before moving any debris or removing damaged belongings, make sure to take photos or video of the damage. Make a list to document these losses. If possible, save damaged items for the representative from your insurance company to review. You should also take reasonable steps to avoid further damage to your home.
  • Even following a major disaster, most insurance companies have a time requirement for filing a claim. When calling to report the loss, have your policy information handy, along with current contact information and your home inventory, if you have one. Ask if your insurer plans to waive or extend claim-filing deadlines.
  • A homeowners policy only covers damage to your home and its contents, and a renter’s policy only covers belongings. If your car was damaged, a separate claim will need to be filed with the auto insurer.
  • A typical homeowners or renter’s policy does not cover flood damage. If you have a policy with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), contact your agent or insurer to file a claim for that policy as well. Damage from a storm surge is considered flood damage.

The Claims Adjuster

There are two types of claims adjusters: company adjusters, who are sent by your insurance company and public adjusters, who are independent contractors.

  • Company adjusters are direct employees of your insurance company. In most cases a company adjuster is going to be the first person to survey the damage to your home. A company adjuster will not charge you for their assessment.
  • Public adjusters are not allowed in Arkansas.

The Claims Process

  • After you have filed your claim, the insurance company will arrange to send a claims adjuster to your home to assess the damage. The company adjuster will want to see all the damaged items you have removed from the home and any photos or video you have of things you removed to make the home safe. Generally, the more information you can provide the adjuster about the loss, the faster the claim can be settled.
  • The company adjuster will walk through your home to look at the damage. If your home was damaged in a storm they may also want to look at the outside of your home, your roof or your basement.
  • The claims adjuster will provide the documentation and their assessment of the loss to your insurance company to help determine your claims settlement.
  • If your insurance company is not responding promptly to your claim, do not hesitate to call the claims department and find out if an adjuster has been assigned. Verify that they have your correct contact details, especially if you have had to evacuate your home. Call the Consumer Services Division at 800-852-5494 if you do not think your insurance company is responding quickly enough, or completing a reasonable investigation of your claim.
  • If there are disagreements between you, the insurer and the adjuster, first try to resolve them with your insurer. Do not feel rushed or pushed to agree with something you are not comfortable with. It might help to have your contractor meet with you and the insurance adjuster. If you cannot reach an agreement with the company, call the Consumer Services Division at 800-852-5494.

Payment of the Claim

  • When it comes to paying your claim, you may receive multiple checks. The first will likely be an emergency advance on the larger payment. The payment for the contents or personal property will be made out to you. However, if there is a mortgage on your home, the payment for structural damage may be payable to you and your mortgage holder. Lenders may put that money into an escrow account and pay for the repairs as the work is completed.
  • If the contractor finds hidden damage that was not discovered in the original assessment, contact your insurance company to resolve the difference. The adjuster and the contractor may choose to meet at the house to review the newly discovered damage. If you cannot resolve the difference, contact the Consumer Services Division at 800-852-5494 to see what recourse you have.
  • Even after you have settled your claim, if you think of items that were not in your initial loss list, contact your insurance company. Unless it has paid the entire limit for the coverage of those types of items, it is possible the company will cover the loss.
  • In major disasters federal agencies provide grants and low-interest loans to assist with recovery. Check with the local disaster center for more information if your loss exceeds the insured value of your home.

More Information

If you have questions or are confused about your insurance coverage, contact the Consumer Services Division at (800) 852-5494 or (501) 371-2640.

To find more information about filing a flood claim with the NFIP here.

Consumers without insurance or who find they do not have enough coverage for the damages their home sustained can register for FEMA assistance here

December 2012