Are you preparing to file a claim for property damages?
Collecting funds to recover lost or damaged property is difficult, but you can usually handle this through your home insurance. Sometimes, it will be necessary to consider the small claims court instead. But getting involved with the district court system in your area can feel overwhelming.
These tips simplify the process and provide clarity that will help you move forward with confidence and knowledge whether you’re working with home insurance claims or in a small claims court.
Tip #1: Document Everything
Clear documentation of your property, damages caused to it, and other related factors will be essential in any property damage case. For example, when dealing with damage to your home caused by bad weather, you’ll benefit from clear pictures of the damage in as much up-close detail as possible.
Take time to photograph everything in any instance of property damage. If you have any images of the vehicle, home, or item damaged before the incident, you will also want to keep those on file.
In addition, be sure to keep a claim log. Maintain a written log of all actions related to the claim; who you talk to (including their position, firm, contact details, etc.) and the gist of the conversation. If you come up against any problems down the track, this log can be useful in substantiating your version of events.
Tip #2: File Promptly
Don’t waste time deciding if you should file a claim or not. Some people hesitate to file claims with their auto or home insurance because they worry about increasing premiums. However, you pay into your policy for the provided protection, and acting quickly will get you the best results.
Connect with your insurance company as soon as possible, even if you cannot yet provide details on the full extent of the damage. Getting the insurance company involved quickly ensures that you don’t make any mistakes throughout the process.
The same reasoning applies when filing in small claims court. You’ll want to file as soon as possible to avoid any potential backlash for how long has lapsed since the incident, and some issues may even have limitations attached to them. Act quickly; get repayment quickly.
Tip #3: Don’t Lose to Bad Work
Filing against a contractor that didn’t deliver on promised home renovations may feel difficult, but you’d be surprised at how often this type of case is successful. Contractors are typically independent workers, and sometimes, they mess up. Quality workers step up and make it right when at fault, but not everyone will do this.
If you’re left with a damaged house, lost money, and no results, it’s time to take action against your contractor. Usually, you’ll be able to file in small claims court to help recover damages. This can lead to mediation to resolve the issue, or you will need to make your case to a judge.
Tip #4: Research Small Claims Filing Procedures
If you’ve determined that a contractor, neighbor, or other party is responsible for damages, you’ll want to file in small claims court to recover your losses.
Before filing a claim, it’s vital that you look up the small claims court filing rules in your state. This is usually as simple as searching online for your state’s name and small claims court. Most states have an official website where they outline the process.
Filing in Florida is a straightforward process. Any claim for unpaid money, stolen property, or damage valued under $8,000 may be filed. Florida courts ask that individuals first try to work out the issue, and they will assign a mediator during the filing process to work out the problem without a hearing. If necessary, however, a judge will decide the outcome.
Not all states have the same laws. For example, in some states, lawyers cannot be part of the actual court hearing, though you can get their advice before a case. Make sure to read up on your local state laws before you start the claim process.
Tip #5: Hire an Expert
Insurance companies send out an adjuster to survey the damage before accepting or denying a claim, and they will generate numbers based on what they find. However, you may not always be satisfied with the outcome of their investigation.
Don’t be afraid to hire your own expert if needed. A structural engineer, landscaping company, or independent contractor can provide a report on what is required to restore the property. Providing your information can help you successfully enter into negotiations with your insurance company.
The same applies when dealing with a small claims case. You may or may not be able to have an attorney in the courtroom, depending on where you live, but you can always consult with one before you take things to the next step. If you need help, get help. It will pay off in the long run.
- When negotiating with an adjuster or attempting to settle out of court, be prepared and willing to negotiate – don’t immediately accept the first offer made
- If necessary, carry out any temporary repairs, and keep a record of the costs. If you need to board up windows or cover holes in your roof, for example, these temporary measures should also be reimbursable as part of your claim.
- Additionally, keep a record of any other unavoidable expenses, such as additionally living costs resulting from the damage, i.e. hotel fees in the event that your property is uninhabitable.
- Do not discard of any damaged items or materials until they have been recorded and, if applicable, assessed by an insurance adjuster
No matter what the circumstances, any claims related to property damage should be handled meticulously. Don’t delay in filing any necessary police reports, document all damage and correspondence carefully and thoroughly, and seek expert advice as needed – if in doubt, consider how much you may kick yourself down the track if you fail to get an expert opinion to back up your claims.