When water damage strikes your home, stress levels may skyrocket. Dealing with the insurance claim process can seem overwhelming, but you’re not alone. According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage is one of the most common causes of home insurance claims, second only to wind and hail damage claims.
While an insurance adjuster will be able to help you with the specifics of your policy, we’ve put together some water damage insurance claim tips. They can help you understand the insurance claim process better and help keep the stress to a minimum if the unthinkable does happen.
Types of Water Damage Commonly Covered By Home Insurance
A common question on every homeowner’s mind is “what type of water damage is covered by homeowners insurance?” Thankfully, there are many types of water damage commonly covered by standard home insurance, including:
- Water overflow caused by faulty appliances
- Sudden or accidental water discharge, such as a burst pipe
- Water damage caused by severe weather, such as a tree falling on your roof during a storm
Some types of water damage that may not be covered by a standard home insurance policy include:
- Gradual damage caused by lack of routine maintenance, such as a leaky toilet or pipes
- Sewer back-up, septic back-up, and sump-pump overflow
- Flood damage
The average homeowner’s insurance policy doesn't cover floods and might not cover other types of water damage either. If you plan ahead and purchase a separate flood insurance policy, you may also be covered for water damage caused by a broken pipe, sewer backup or failed drainage tiles. If you’re dealing with flood damage at home, learn more about the flood insurance claims process.
It's important to know exactly what your homeowner's insurance policy does and doesn't cover regarding water damage, so always check your policy first.
What To Do Before Filing A Water Damage Insurance Claim
After informing your insurance company of the water damage to your home, you may immediately want to start a claim to get the money needed to do repair. However, it’s important to take a few steps beforehand to ensure that no further damage happens to your property.
- Ensure that all people inside of your home are safe and accounted for
- Turn off the water from the source or the main supply to avoid further damage
- Take your surviving valuables away from the affected area
- Board up doors or window to prevent more water from entering
- Remove standing water (if safe)
- Dry the affected area to the best of your ability
- Take photos/video of the damage
Even if the damage seems minor, you may need the services of a trusted water mitigation company such as ServiceMaster Restore to prevent further damage from affecting your home. Our experts will be available to remove water, tarp up holes in your roof, or take any other precautions to ensure further damage does not occur.
What Not To Do While Filing A Water Damage Insurance Claim
When dealing with a high-stress situation, you may find yourself following advice from well-meaning friends or family. Unfortunately, some recommendations may not help your claim, and could lead to future problems. These include:
Throwing damaged items away
During the inspection, the insurance company will need to analyze the evidence of your water damage claim. You may have a desire to throw away damaged items, but only do so after being authorized by the insurance company in writing. If you do throw away these items, you may not be compensated for those items during your claims process.
Making repairs before you have the approval
During the inspection, your insurance company will make note of what repairs will be needed and the estimated cost. If you begin repairs without prior approval, you risk not having the repairs covered. Larger damage will often require more time, so patience is needed to ensure that you get covered for the full cost to repair any damage fully and properly.
Using the vendors suggested by the insurance company
When the area has been inspected, your insurance company will often provide a list of vendors that they work with. While it may be tempting to use the first vendor that you see on the list, it’s important to do your own research and find a company that you feel is best equipped for the job, has extensive experience, and is known for being reliable. Vendors that work with the insurance adjuster may have deals that may not represent your best interests. By taking the additional time to research, you’ll ensure that the job gets done right the first time and in a timely fashion.
How to File a Water Damage Insurance Claim
After further damage is prevented, it’s time to file your water damage insurance claim. Follow the steps below:
- Review your homeowners or renters insurance policy. Your insurance company or agent can provide a copy if the original is missing or damaged. The declarations page has important information regarding your policy's water damage coverage, deductibles, limitations or exclusions. It also should list any claim filing deadlines.
- Take photos and/or video of the damage before any cleanup or restoration begins.
- Once the inspection is done, work with professionals like the team at ServiceMaster Restore for damage assessment, cleanup estimates and restoration. A professional company can quickly perform complete water extraction and drying, pack-out services, board-up and full mold remediation as needed.
- Ask for written estimates at each stage of the process. You will need to provide this information to your insurance agency.
- Gather the necessary information needed to file a water damage insurance claim. This information may include, but isn't limited to:
- Date of water damage
- Location of damage
- Contact information for the property owner
- Your personal contact information, if you're not the property owner
- Cleanup and remediation estimates
- Receipts for all cleanup, repairs and other related costs
- Receipts for lodging and meals if you had to leave your home before or during cleanup and repair
- Complete list of all damaged items and building materials
- Keep detailed records or a log of each person you speak with at the insurance company. This log should include the date and time of the call, the representative's name and a brief description of your conversation. Keep a copy of every written communication with the insurance company, including a file for digital communication like emails.
Once you have filed your water damage claim, you will commonly be contacted within a couple of days. A detailed description of the process will be provided, including your responsibilities and any documentation you need to complete. Once done, your claim will be investigated and if you are approved you will receive reimbursement for damaged property and a direct payment to the company in charge of restoration shortly after.
Why Was Coverage Denied In A Water Damage Insurance Claim?
Coverage of your policy will depend on a variety of factors, and in some cases your insurance company may deny your claim. When this happens, in most cases it's because your policy may not have had the coverage necessary to cover the damage that occurred to your home. In these situations, it’s important to clarify why that coverage was not added to your policy.
You may have denied the additional coverage upon signing the policy or it may have not been available from your current insurance company. If the coverage you need is not available with your current company, you may consider switching insurance to another company who does provide that coverage for future events.
If you’re still confused about why an item was not covered or think there was a misunderstanding, ask your insurance agent or a licensed profession for a review. It’s important to fully understand why a claim was denied. While you may not get any further compensation for the current situation it will make you a more informed insurance shopper and help you be better prepared for the future.
If you took proactive steps before the incident and the insurance company claims that you failed to practice regular maintenance, mitigate damages, or otherwise prevent the damage from becoming a bigger problem, make sure to ask for a review or second opinion. You will have to provide evidence, so ensure that you have the proper receipts and communications saved to back up your claims.
There are many people throughout the claim process who each have a different role including insurance agents, insurance adjusters or contractors. Be sure to ask for a clarification to better understand who issued the decision, why it was denied, and ask for a formal decision in writing to have for your records.
How To Avoid Having A Water Damage Claim Denied
While water damage claims cannot be guaranteed, there are a variety of steps you can take to ensure the likelihood of your claim being approved in the future. These include:
- Ensuring that your homeowners insurance policy has the coverage you need
- Making sure that you understand the policy exclusions (remember, insurers want your business - don’t be afraid to ask any and all questions until you feel comfortable)
- Hiring a professional to do regular inspections of your home to ensure no problems exist
- Ensure regular maintenance of your home throughout the year to avoid large and costly expenses in the future
- Keep a log of repairs done to your home in case of another disaster
Get Your Life Back On Track
Any type of water damage event is stressful, but the tips above should give you a better understanding of the steps needed to take when filing a water damage insurance claim.
While specific questions regarding your policy and coverage are best handled by your insurance adjuster, the experts at ServiceMaster Restore can help you get through the process without headache or hassle. From water extraction to the restoration of your artwork, books and important documents, contact one of our local experts to help you get through the crisis.