Sunday, March 18, 2012

Be Prepared - filing an insurance claim

Well, it's finally happened - after nearly 25 years, I have to file a claim on my home insurance.   Both our vehicles were broken into last weekend and we (being complacent as we live in a quiet neighbourhood) got caught with a lot of stuff in the car (all of which is no longer in the car)  Lesson learned - never leave anything in your car - take out the goods when you get home.  

Never having filed a claim, I called our insurance company (BCAA in this case) and shared with the adjuster what had happened.  We knew what was missing and we'd filed a police report, so we thought we were all good to go.  While nothing in our claim is of exceptionally high value, enough went missing to justify the claim. Our adjuster was fine with the items, and explained the process.

Here's where I want to share about being prepared.   We have some records of the stuff we lost - prescription glasses, a couple of newer electronic items, but not the older stuff.  Insurance companies want to know what you lost and prefer that you can show them you had it in the first place.  (so you don't, say, claim the $1400 electronic item or the $500 leather jacket you never owned).  

This is where it occurred to me that if I had to make a claim in the event of a fire or other catastrophic event, I am not prepared.  I have no clue of the make/model of most things I own. I use them daily, but really never paid attention.  And I also, after a lot of thought, think I'm probably woefully under insured.  Think about it - if you had to replace EVERYTHING you own, how much would that cost?   We still have cd's and dvd's - at an average, lets say, of $15 each that would add up to a substantial amount!   Every 10 is $150.   oh, plus tax! 

Add up your pens, pencils, cutlery, books, toiletries, knick knacks, coats, socks and underwear, to mention a few, and I think you'll be surprised at your investment.    While the best option would be to have a detailed spreadsheet with cost values for everything along with a thick file of receipts for every item in your home, it's not likely or practical that you can do this. 

I have a suggestion, though.   Scan all your receipts for items of any value.  Receipts fade to unreadable as I've just discovered.  A blank piece of paper with barely there printing at the top won't be useful.   If you have it all on a usb - you can leave it at a family member or friends place for safekeeping as well as have one for yourself.   Either take pictures - or better yet, video of your home.  Go room by room opening cupboards and drawers and taking the time to layout the expensive stuff so it can be seen.  This way the insurance adjuster has something that shows you had the item in your home.  You can likely save the video to a usb, as well. That tiny piece of equipment could be the most important thing if you have to make a big claim.  Keep your home copy where you keep your important papers to grab and go.  And scan all of those onto the usb, too.   If you lose everything, you lose the originals if they are in your home - that secondary usb could save you a substantial amount of time recovering everything.

Look at your insurance papers, ask questions about your plan - go over the what if scenarios with your adviser and make sure you are covered for everything possible.  Know your exceptions as well. 

It's never a good thing to make a claim as it means something has happend. When it does, think carefully about it as each claim makes you less desirable as a client - which translates into higher rates. I'm lucky I had a one claim forgiveness clause and a low deductible.  I wouldn't have made the claim otherwise.  We lost a substantial amount of stuff, but other than the prescription glasses, we'd have survived without it. Not comfortably and definitely not happily since we'd worked hard to pay for it all, but you have to look at the big picture and if it will cost you more in the long run with higher rates and a big deductible to pay.

So if you've learned anything today - get those pictures/video/scans done to protect yourself.  And call your insurance advisor to ask what you're insured for.  I would think there would be nothing worse than not being insured for something you assumed you would be, and being stuck with a huge bill to recover from it.

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