Filing a Successful Insurance Claim: Guidance for Self-Storage Operators

Scott Lancaster Comments
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Also, your insurer should provide specialty coverage for customer’s goods legal liability and sale and disposal legal liability. These are exposures unique to your business operation. The coverages are offered by many companies that provide insurance designed for the self-storage business, but are not included in many small-business packages sold by insurance companies and agents who are not familiar with the industry. 

Facilitating a Claim

The claims process includes everything that happens after you first become aware of an event that will cause you to make a claim on your insurance policy up until the time your claim is settled. The process can be broadly broken into two periods: the time before you notify the insurance company of the event leading to your claim, and the time when you’re working with your insurance carrier to resolve it.

Through this process, one thing that will get you through as quickly and painlessly as possible is documentation. The other is cooperating and working closely with your company’s representative, probably an adjuster.

Documentation

The claims process begins as soon as you’re aware of the event that leads to the claim. In the case of loss or damage to property, take pictures and gather names and statements from any witnesses. If you believe further damage to your property can be avoided by immediate action, take steps to keep things from getting worse.

Perhaps you could make temporary repairs to a damaged gate, door or window to prevent inappropriate access to your facility. Or put a temporary covering on a damaged roof to prevent water from leaking into units.

If the event involves a potential liability claim, such as a customer injury on the property or damage to customers’ stored goods, again, document the loss. Obtain photos, names and statements from any individuals with knowledge of the incident. Do not admit or accept responsibility. You may not have been negligent or liable for the damage or injury. You must work with your insurer’s representative to determine the best way to handle the potential claim.

Now it’s time to present your claim to your insurance representative. Some people are reluctant to report an incident unless they’re sure it will lead to a covered claim. They’re afraid the report could impair future eligibility for insurance or increase premiums even if no claim is ever paid. You may not need to make a formal claim if you’re unsure if the event is covered or will actually lead to a liability claim, but it’s wise to talk to your representative to help make a coverage determination. And be sure to put the company on notice of a claim in a timely fashion, as required by almost every policy.

Once your claim has been reported, the process involves “proving your claim.” You’ve already begun by documenting what happened as well as you could. The insurance company now needs to validate the claim by: 

  • Verifying a covered incident or accident has occurred
  • Verifying the event occurred during the policy term
  • Determining the amount payable to you or to a third-party claimant

Your documentation immediately following a loss should help establish the first and second parts, while the foundation you built by purchasing the right types and amounts of insurance should ensure you’re fully indemnified for the third part. 

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