By Kay Schaefer
As a self-storage business owner, you took the time to find the right insurance policy to protect your company. You discussed coverage with your agent, and agreed on the property values and liability limits for your specific operation. But when choosing insurance to protect against loss or damage due to theft, tenant claims or injury, many owners don’t really think catastrophic events will happen to them.
When the unthinkable occurs―and it does―what do you do? You must file a claim with your insurance carrier, and you must protect yourself and your facility from further damage. Although most claims are handled quickly, they require your attention to detail. Knowing what to expect and how to advance the process will keep you sleeping at night―and isn’t that the reason you purchased insurance in the first place? By following the six simple steps below, the claim process should go smoothly.
1. Understand Your Policy
Immediately review your insurance policy so you understand what’s covered and what your deductible will be if one applies. The policy is a contract between you and the insurance carrier. It’s important to have the protection you want and not find out later that exposures you thought were protected under the policy are ultimately excluded from coverage. If you have any questions, ask your agent to review the policy with you.
2. Be Prompt
File your claim as soon as possible after an incident occurs with your insurance agent or through your carrier’s claim line, whichever has been provided to you. Be prompt―most policies have specific timeframes in which you must file a claim.
The person with whom you speak will have questions. Be prepared with information about the who, what, where and when of the claim. Take a moment to write everything down before you call, and keep a record for yourself. Include any available information on the injured party or witnesses including names, addresses and phone numbers. Good documentation goes a long way toward making the claim process painless.
The person taking the claim report will gather the information you provide and any other pertinent details or documentation. If you’re reporting to an agent, he’ll pass the report along to the insurance carrier.
Some business owners hesitate to file a claim because they’re concerned about the effect it could have on their future insurance coverage or premium. But if an incident has caused damage and timely reporting is not done, you could restrict yourself from ever having coverage for that loss. If you’re not sure if you should make a claim, talk to your agent. He’ll be familiar with the process for your carrier. He may want to put the carrier on notice but not actually file a claim until more information is gathered. This notice will protect your rights under your policy and meet the carrier’s time requirements.
3. Gather Documentation
Create any additional documentation needed by the insurance carrier. The more info you can provide, the easier the claim process will be. Different incidents will have specific information needs. Some of these include:
Inventory lists. If theft is involved, start working on an inventory list. The more details you have ahead of time, the easier it will be to create this list after the loss. Consider keeping an inventory on hand or a photo record of what’s in your office, apartment or maintenance shed.
Police report. You will need to file a police report in the case of theft, vandalism and, in some cases, accident or injury. Keep a copy of the police report for yourself and make one for your insurance carrier.