By John Grant Losing something valuable, especially after a burglary, is bound to be upsetting. But that whole bad situation can get a lot worse if you end up fighting with your insurer over settling your claim. Tens of thousands of people each year claim for loss or damage to property covered under their contents insurance policy. Knowing what your policy actually covers - and that does take some effort to review - can save you from both anger and disappointment as you work though the claims process. It will also help you understand your rights to a proper payout and resolution.
Contact your insurance company promptly, as soon as you know you may have a claim - and having your policy details available will speed up the process. Discuss with the person on the phone what has happened and confirm that it is something you can claim for. Be specific about the items that you want to claim for - make an itemised list. And be prepared to produce information that confirms your ownership of those items. This could be a receipt or a copy of a credit card statement showing purchase of the item. Even a photograph could be helpful. People who keep their personal records neatly recorded will find this less painful than those who can't be bothered with such things. Be as clear as possible as to how and where the loss occurred. For example, if it has been lost, try and recall when you were last in possession of the item. If it was lost away from home and you know where, make sure you report it to the local Police or other appropriate authorities. The insurer could ask for confirmation that this has been done. Get a price if you can on what the item costs now for replacement. Depending on your policy conditions, the item will be either covered for replacement value or market value. The difference can be quite significant and it is dependent on the specific policy conditions. If the item is covered for replacement then be prepared for the claim to be settled by it being replaced. If you do not want it replaced then nearly all policies will only make a cash settlement based on its market value. You just won't get 'new' for 'old'. Be careful to complete the claim form truthfully and accurately - remember that any incorrect statements can lead to a claim being declined. A number of insurers participate in an scheme where details on claims are held on a central register. This helps them spot issues like fraud, where the same item is the subject of multiple claims. At the time you took out the policy, you will almost certainly have agreed to this information being passed on to this central registry. And, also remember that if the item is subsequently found, then it belongs to your insurance company and you must notify them immediately. The best preparation for filing a claim is knowledge of what your policy covers. That means you can talk to your insurer on an equal basis. But a fast reading of your policy coverage just after a loss is usually a poor time to become familiar for what you are covered. You are much better off to get that understanding when you take out the policy. At that time, make a separate summary of how the policy applies to your stuff, and how the excess will apply. That is also a good time to make an inventory, preferably with pictures and proof-of-ownership details. Most people don't of course, but that just compounds their frustration when they need to make a claim. Have you had to make a claim recently? How well did your insurance company handle your claim? We are keen to hear of actual experiences. Use the Comment section below.