October 1, 1998

4 Min Read
What to Do After a LossFiling an insurance claim

What to Do After a Loss

Filing an insurance claim

By David Wilhite

No self-storage owner wants to contemplate the consequences of a fire destroying hisfacility or the wind ripping off his roof and doors, but the fact is that disasters canand do happen. Losses can be difficult to endure, but there are steps you can take to helpspeed up the claims process and get your operation back in order. Here are some tips tohelp you get started:

Tip: After any loss, it is important to focus on your strengths and coping skills.Set realistic goals for yourself and concentrate on priorities. Remember that disasterscan happen to anyone and that you are not alone.

What to Do After a Loss

The first thing you should do after a loss--and note that some business insurancepolicies require you to do this--is take immediate action to protect your property againstfurther damage. Depending on the circumstances of your particular loss, this might includecalling a public utility to shut off the power to your premises (as in the case offlooding). Assuming that your claim is covered, the cost of any emergency measures shouldbe picked up by your insurance company. (Be sure to keep your receipts for repairs). Ofcourse, if a loss forces you to evacuate your premises, you should notify the policedepartment before leaving your facility unlocked and unattended.

The next thing you should do after a loss is make an inventory of any items that havebeen lost, stolen or damaged. This serves two purposes: It can help you generate an actionplan for getting your facility back in operation, and can greatly speed up the processingof your claim. Seeing the destruction of your business and personal property can betraumatic, especially in the case of a fire, but remember that you should not dispose ofany damaged goods until your claim has been fully investigated by your insurance adjuster.

The third thing you should do is get in touch with your insurance agent or broker assoon as possible after a loss. The more quickly he is contacted, the sooner your claim canbe processed. Advise him of any loss or damage. In situations where you need to evacuateyour premises or have lost access to public services, be sure to give your agent or brokera telephone number where you can be reached. And try to avoid discussing the circumstancesof your claim with anyone except your agent or broker--doing otherwise may put your claimin jeopardy.

Tip: Follow up on your call to your agent or broker with a letter detailing yourloss. Keep a copy of the letter and all other correspondence for your records.

Filing Your Claim

In order to be reimbursed by your insurance company after a loss, you will need to filea claim. This is the formal document upon which payment will be adjudicated according tothe terms and conditions of your policy. In most cases your insurance agent can completeand file the claim for you over the phone, although in some instances you may be requiredto file the form yourself. In either case, be sure to supply your agent with as muchdetail as possible.

Tip: If possible, take steps to support your claim with photos or video-camerafootage of your property, both before (if available) and after the loss of damage.Remember to give your agent or broker copies of all police and/or fire reports, repairreceipts and other pertinent documentation.

The Role of the Claims Adjuster

Once you have reported your claim to your agent or broker (who represents you), he willimmediately contact a claims adjuster (who represents the insurance company). The claimsadjuster's job, after thoroughly investigating the nature of your loss, is to make ajudgment call on behalf of the insurance carrier to pay all, part or none of your claim,according the terms and conditions of your policy. While most claims are settled promptlyand fairly, some are more complicated and may require some interaction on your part. Insuch cases, your agent or broker should work with you to help resolve your claim to yoursatisfaction.

What You Need to Know About Your Deductible

When your claim is settled, the amount that the insurance company pays out to you mightbe subject to a deductible. Choosing a larger deductible allows the insurance company tocharge a smaller premium since you have agreed to pay a larger share of any incurreddamages. Most self-storage facility owners choose a $1,000 deductible on their insurancepolicies.

Tip: You may want to check with your agent or broker to see how much you can save onyour annual insurance premium by choosing a larger deductible than you currently have.

Remember, no matter how large or small your self-storage facility may be, securingadequate coverage is essential for protecting your business and your peace of mind.

David Wilhite is the marketing manager of Universal Insurance Facilities Inc.Universal offers a complete package of coverages specifically designed to meet the needsof the self-storage industry, including loss of income, employee dishonesty, comprehensivebusiness liability, hazardous-contents removal and customer storage. For more information,contact Universal at Box 40079, Phoenix, AZ 85067-0079; phone (800) 844-2101; fax (602)970-6240; Web: www.vpico.com/universal.

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