7 pitfalls to avoid after a loss
By Isabelle Ladouceur-Séguin|6 min|December 2021
Have you suffered a loss after a disaster? Here are the main pitfalls to avoid.
A disaster is a major ordeal to go through. Not only do you have to clean, replace or restore your belongings, you also have to mourn the loss of what you can't get back. So it is perfectly normal to feel anxious, and even panicked, about going through this process.
However, it’s important to stay calm and get informed to avoid any pitfalls. Here are the most common ones that you should avoid.
1. Waiting too long before calling your insurer
The first thing you should do when you discover the loss is to call your insurer. Unless, of course, you or your family are in danger. In that case, leave the premises and call for help. Then, as soon as you are safe, call your insurer.
If you wait too long, you may lose your right to an indemnity. That is, the amount your insurer would have given you to cover your loss. Your insurer has the right to refuse to compensate you if your inaction has caused them prejudice (e.g., the loss has caused more damage).
2. Commissioning a contractor without your insurer’s consent
Your insurer may have agreements with restoration companies. If you sign a restoration contract without their consent, it can make things more difficult later on.
That said, if you have just discovered the loss and can't reach your insurer, call an emergency clean-up company. This way, you will meet your obligation to limit the damage.
3. Staying in a hotel rather than in a temporary accommodation for disaster victims
If your insurer considers your home uninhabitable, you will have to find temporary accommodation. But don't make the mistake of renting a hotel room! You will pay a high price and likely won’t have access to amenities like:
- a fully equipped kitchen
- laundry facilities
A better option is to use a disaster relocation service. Designed for disaster victims, they allow you to rent fully furnished and equipped accommodation. Sometimes without even having to specify a departure date!
4. Listening to your friends’ or family’s advice
Someone close to you has experienced a disaster and seems to give good pieces of advice? Think twice before acting on them. The true expert of your insurance contract is your claims adjuster (the person who manages your claim).
It is their role to guide you through the process. Don't hesitate to ask them for advice to make the right choices.
5. Inflating your loss
Inflating your loss to get a bigger payout is probably the worst mistake you can make after a loss.
If your insurer finds out that you deliberately lied in your claim, they may refuse to pay you. Worse: you could face legal action. This can make it very difficult to get insurance afterwards.
6. Not documenting the process
Documenting the loss and your claim protects you from misunderstandings and payment refusals.
Here are some tips:
- Take photos of your damaged goods before you throw them away. It’ll be easier to claim them as losses later.
- If you have to demolish or replace materials, keep a sample. This will help your claims adjuster identify them accurately.
- Keep a record of all the steps you take. For example, every time you call your insurer or a service provider, follow up with an email. In your message, summarise what you’ve agreed on.
7. Not supervising the restoration work
You're not happy with the restoration work but your insurer has already paid the bill? It may be too late to get the problem fixed easily.
To avoid this issue, visit the site often to see how the work is progressing. And wait until you’re completely satisfied before approving payment of the bills. This will save you a lot of hassle!
Give yourself a fair chance
To get a fair and equitable settlement for your claim, it’s best to do things properly. That said, the process is complex and mistakes are common. Protect yourself by avoiding the following pitfalls:
- Waiting too long before calling your insurer
- Commissioning a contractor without the consent of your insurer
- Staying in a hotel rather than in a temporary accommodation for disaster victims
- Listening to your friends’ or family’s advice
- Inflating your loss
- Not documenting the process
- Not supervising the restoration work
Remember that the claims adjuster is your contact person for any questions or concerns. When in doubt, give them a call or send them an email. They will be happy to help.
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