It’s happened—that thing you thought would never occur. Disaster has struck! Whether it’s a fire, flooded units, building damage or something else, the unexpected is why you buy insurance to protect your self-storage business.
When an incident occurs and you need to file a claim under your policy, you might be confused or worried about the process. Understanding in advance how it works can keep the experience from becoming traumatic. Below are some things you should know, including how to prepare, keep things moving smoothly and achieve a better outcome. The goal for you and your insurance company is to get your business up and running again.
The Right Policy
Being prepared to file a claim starts with having the right insurance in the first place. There are many options for covering your storage business, and it’s vital to work with a reputable company. Your agent can guide you through the process of evaluating your property and business needs to determine the policy that’s right for you. It might include:
- Adequate coverage to replace owned property
- Loss-of-income coverage for incurred expenses and loss of rent
- Liability coverage to defend against claims of negligence
- Customer’s goods legal liability and sale and disposal liability to protect you from negligence claims from tenants
You might consider additional coverages depending on your business size and location. Your insurance agent can help you determine what’s best. Once you have a policy, review it regularly so you understand what’s covered and your deductible. If you have questions, ask your agent.
The Claims Process
The claim process begins as soon as you’re aware of an incident. Call your insurance agent immediately and discuss what happened. Be prepared with information about the who, what, where and when of the claim. This includes details about any injured parties or witnesses including names, addresses and phone numbers. Your agent will ask you additional questions and document evidence to share with your insurance company.
It’s important to be prompt because most insurance policies state a timeframe in which claims must be filed. Your policy also requires that you cooperate during the process.
Once you file, your insurance company will verify the incident occurred during your policy term and whether it’s covered. Next, it might assign an adjuster to work with you on your claim. Your best hope of achieving a successful outcome is to develop a good working relationship with your adjuster and keep an open line of communication. Here are some other things you should do to assist this person:
Think about safety. First, take steps to prevent further damage or injury, if possible; but don’t put yourself in harm’s way. For example, if a door is broken, cordon it off so no one can access it. If necessary, turn off the power, water supply or gas.
Document what happened. Take pictures and create an inventory of damaged items. Nothing tells a story like photos, so take them as soon as it’s practical. They can show the extent of harm and any steps you’ve taken to protect your property and liability exposures.
Call the police. If theft or vandalism has occurred, call the police. Once they’ve completed their report, obtain a copy for yourself and your insurance company. Keep all this information organized and be ready to share it with your agent and adjuster.
Provide records. You may need business reports and documentation to support your case. For example, if your claim includes loss of rent, you’ll be asked to provide historical income records. (If you have seasonal fluctuations in rental revenue, you may need to produce records going back more than a year.) In the case of liability claims, you may need to provide records showing maintenance, lien procedures and other operational practices. A claim against you by a tenant will require a review of his lease and any signed addendums. If his claim involves a lien sale, you’ll need to share documentation leading up to the auction.
Record of your costs. Invoices for repairs and other related expenses are required to process your claim. Make copies and keep these in a separate file. You want the insurance company to pay you full value for your insured loss. The adjuster’s job is to make sure the amounts paid by the company are in line with your policy.
By taking these steps and knowing what to do when an incident occurs, the claim process will run more smoothly. You should be back up to speed before you know it!
Kay Schaefer is a self-storage program underwriter for Deans & Homer, an insurance-managing underwriter providing specialized coverage for the self-storage industry since 1974. For more information, call 800.847.9999; visit www.deanshomer.com.