Managing insurance claims paperwork

Photo of floor after a flood showing pools of water and mud damange

Water and mud damage to flooring

Photo of carpet after flood, wet and soggy mess

Carpet holds water and mud

Photo of furniture after flood damage

Furniture hates water

A disaster has struck, an earthquake, a fire, a flood or some other catastrophe and you are left with loss and damage to your property. Where do you start? You may have even lost all your paperwork relating to insurance coverage.

STOP, take a deep breath and let me step you through the Paper Flow process to ensure your claim is processed as quickly as possible given the dire circumstances you are in. My sympathy goes out to you and your family, and, if you follow these simple steps, your claim will be processed quickly and hopefully your life will be restored as close as possible to what it was before.

  1. As soon as possible after the disaster secure your property, if safe to do so, to prevent  further damage to property and contents. You have a duty of care not to allow more damage to property and to salvage what you can.
  2. Contact your insurance company and lodge a claim. They should give you a claim number, keep a record of this. Your insurance company will have records of your policy number and other details if yours has been lost or damaged in the event. Ask to have a copy of your policy and your terms and conditions sent to you so you are fully aware of your coverage.
  3. Set up a file (a manila folder will do to start with) to keep all your claims documents.  Write the name of the claim on the tab and keep all important numbers and contact details on the inside page to have as a ready reference. For example.
    • Name of insurance company
    • Address of place insured
    • Name of policy holder
    • Policy number
    • Claim number
    • Claims officer dealing with your claim
  4. The insurance company is going to want a list of damage done to property and contents and whatever documentation you have to support your claim. This can be hard to do if some or all of your items have been destroyed or stolen. If you have receipts or other proof of purchase or even photos that really helps. Collect together as many of these as possible:
    • Original receipts
    • Police, fire, emergency service reports
    • Valuations
    • Photos or videos of original and/or damaged condition (TIP:  family photos often show backgrounds with clearly visible contents)
    • Insurance lists (list by room, simply systematically walk around the room, physically or mentally, noting or remembering items as you go around, you can always add to the list at a later date if something comes to mind.
    • Product brands, models, serial numbers where possible
  5. Even though you may have house and contents under the one policy it’s good to separate all the home issues from the contents issues. A good way to organise your documents is in a lever arch folder with tabbed dividers. For Example:
    • Master Information Tab, contact details or all people, trades, stores you deal with, insurance records, claim forms (copies)
    • Existing Contents Tab – all records to do with your possessions, receipts, photos. If you have printed photos and small receipts you may need to store these in plastic pocket, alternatively you can scan them and have them in A4 format.
    • Existing Building Tab – all records to do with your home, floor plans, title, mortgage, photos, receipts for improvements. If you have printed photos and small receipts you may need to store these in plastic pocket, alternatively you can scan them and have them in A4 format.
    • Contents Purchase Tab – receipts and quotes, you may have to get quotes for replacing contents and you may have to purchase items and have the amount reimbursed. Keep a tab for these separate to your old contents records.
    • New Building Tab – keep quotes, receipts and information on new building works undertaken by tradespeople. If the job is a big one you may break down more tabs one for each trade.
    • Correspondence Tab – keep all letters, emails etc between you and the insurance company here.
    • Add tabs as necessary.
  6. Be sure you continue to pay your premiums so your policy doesn’t lapse although if you were paid up at the time of the event the insurance company is liable for coverage according to your terms and conditions.

By keeping everything together and by having a master record of all contacts you are more likely to keep this very drawn out process under control and in order. Good luck!