You say the wrong thing when reporting the claim.   Let’s be honest, you probably don’t deal with this every day, and hopefully this will be the only claim you ever have to work through.   A wise man once told me, “You don’t know what you don’t know”.  Trying to communicate the series of events that led to crumbling walls, floating couch cushions, and a basement that resembles a virtual water park may be challenging.  Keep in mind that this is a frustrating and panic filled time so you might not be thinking as clear as usual.  Saying the wrong thing may cost you time when approving your insurance claim, or worse yet getting your claim denied all together.

You wait for the adjuster to come out before mitigation.  This one is completely avoidable if you have read your policy in its entirety.  Your very long, very confusing, very boring insurance policy.  Here is what you need to know.  Not only should you get a mitigation company working as soon as possible to minimize the damage to your home.  It is actually required in your policy.  Do not wait!  If your claim is denied you will pay substantially more for everything that could have been saved by starting immediately.  If the claim is covered by your insurance they will benefit from your quick action, and you will have less to repair.  Ultimately getting you back to normal quicker and saving you considerable dollars.

You don’t realize you need two contractors.  Split your claim in to two pieces.  These are defined as the prevention of further damage, and the repair to the property.   One is the heart surgeon and the other the plastic surgeon.   You want your plastic surgeon to do quality methodical work that meets your budget.  You want your heart surgeon to save your life by adjusting quickly, being ready to start now, giving you sound in the moment guidance, and specializing as a heart surgeon.  Just imagine a heart surgeon who is also a plastic surgeon.  I’m sure it exists, but that probably doesn’t seem like an inspirational combo.   Mitigation contractors and reconstruction contractors, no matter what they tell you, are designed to do one or the other even if they try to do both.  By hiring a reconstruction contractor to mitigate damage you are letting the person who is getting paid to replace an item determine if it should be saved.  “Let’s just replace it” is a very costly sentence when you could use those dollars elsewhere.   

They believe the first insurance check is the only check.  This is pretty self-explanatory, as to the dollars, yet I see this one on claims where a customer doesn’t hire a contractor to mitigate damage on a very regular basis. Without a guide “You don’t know what you don’t know”.  And it is not common knowledge that the insurance company will typically cut you 2 to 4 checks during the claim process provided you do not wait.  They give you a “here’s my best guess check”, an “Oh that’s the balance to mitigate check”, a “here use this to hire the reconstruction guy check”, and a “That should cover the reconstruction and replacement of your lost items check”.   Both of your contractors should be able to guide you through the release of these funds.

They try to handle it themselves.  This is specialized work that seems like common sense work.  It is anything but.  Insurance pays for you to hire trained professionals whose background is rooted in building stabilization, and restoring the sanitary living conditions you deserve, all while protecting you from health risks that you probably haven’t considered.  You wouldn’t stitch your own gash simply because you have a needle and thread.   Use the insurance dollars for their intended purpose.  If you choose to handle it yourself, you risk additional damage that will be denied by your insurance carrier if it was not addressed properly in the beginning.  Sadly, this is the main driver for the mold removal industry, and that industry is not normally supported by insurance dollars.  That means your previously financed project becomes a self-pay and normally twice the cost.  Hire professionals that walk you through the insurance claim and save you money.  You won’t regret it.

Chris Petersen has spent the last 20 years helping people navigate their insurance claim experience.