After a fire or flood, it’s common for people to pick up the phone to call the insurance company first; but there’s a better way to manage the relief process.
Professional Restoration has been providing disaster cleanup and restoration for more than 25 years. We’ve seen it all and helped hundreds of individuals through the overwhelming claims process.
Below, we explain the steps you should take to ensure the best outcome for your claim and why contacting a disaster relief company first could save you time and money.
Step 1: Safety First
Before you call anyone about a home fire or flood, respond to emergencies and make sure all home or building occupants are safe. Responding may also include calling the fire department or shutting off the main water valve.
If the home isn’t safe, don’t stick around or wait for assistance. Get yourself and others to a safe location before making any further calls.
Step 2: Assess…But Don’t Clean
Once the home or building is safe to visit, it’s time to assess the damage. During this step, homeowners may feel inclined to clean or salvage personal belongings; however, this can lead to problems with an insurer.
Insurance companies require detailed proof of a disaster as well as any claimed property damage. Homeowners mistakenly think they’re helping when they clean, but they’re actually destroying important evidence that could significantly impact a claim, or get the claim denied altogether.
A broad assessment of damages will help homeowners communicate the disaster more effectively to an insurance agent as well as a disaster relief company.
Here are some general questions you should be able to answer once you’ve assessed the damage:
- What kind of disaster occurred? (i.e., flood, fire, mold, etc.)
- Where is most of the damage?
- Is the home or building secure? Are there broken windows, holes in the roof or walls, etc.?
Whatever you do, resist the urge to clean or tidy up. If the scene is safe, feel free to take pictures of the damage; however, your insurer and disaster relief company will document the damage fully, so it’s not always necessary for homeowners to document the damage at this stage.
Step 3: Contact a Local Disaster Relief Company
Homeowners typically call their insurer at this stage, but working with a disaster relief company first offers clear advantages.
For example, it may be less expensive to pay directly for the cleanup and restoration. Some insurance policies have high deductibles. It might be cheaper to avoid a claim and pay for the damage out-of-pocket. An experienced restoration company can help determine if insurance is the wisest course of action.
If you’ve made claims in the past, you might not want to use insurance for minor damage or cleanup. Furthermore, the number of claims you make will impact your future insurance rates.
Another advantage of delaying a call with your insurance company: you get to pick your preferred restoration company without hassle. By law, it’s a homeowner’s right to choose whatever disaster relief company they want. Insurance companies have a list of ‘preferred vendors’ that they’ll try to push once you make a claim.
It’s not necessarily in your best interest to work with vendors referred by your insurer. Preferred vendors negotiate special rates for jobs they get through referrals. Their rates are typically cheaper which is why insurance companies like them so much. How are they cheaper? We don’t know. But we do know the savings doesn’t ensure quality work and service for homeowners.
Your home restoration company should only work for you. Preferred vendors primarily work for the insurance company and that doesn’t ensure quality services for the homeowner.
Finally, working with a trusted, local restoration company could help reduce the overwhelming stress of the disaster. Good restoration companies work with homeowners to ensure the best insurance outcome. This includes detailed documentation of the disaster, generating accurate estimates, and being available to negotiate with insurance companies. They can also help determine if you should work with insurance or pay for the damages directly.
Pick a disaster relief company with a good reputation and plenty of experience. Remember: you have the right to choose whatever relief company you think is best for the job.
Step 4: Contact Your Insurer
Don’t wait too long to contact the insurance company. A claim could be denied if you don’t report the damage in a timely manner.
Also, be aware that the claims process can take weeks or months to complete, depending on the circumstances. This is another reason you should pick a trusted restoration company: much of the evidence gathering and negotiating will revolve around what your relief company investigates. You want to make sure your working relationship with them is professional, attentive, and they’re willing to go the distance.
At Professional Restoration, we pride ourselves on excellent customer service, speedy relief 24/7, and insurance experience our customers can count on.
If you’re ever faced with a fire or flood remember: contact a disaster relief company first for detailed evidence collection and clear options on how best to proceed with cleanup and restoration.