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How long can a home insurance company wait to pay my claim?

Posted : 01/19/2007

Insurance companies are entitled to a "reasonable" amount of time to process your home insurance or renter's insurance claim. Individual states regulate the timeframe in which the insurance company must pay or deny your claim.

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Some states have specific regulatory timeframes while others simply require resolution in a "reasonable" timeframe, with provisions for extensions for extenuating circumstances.

The Insurance Information Institute website provides links to each state insurance organization website where you can find specific details for your state.

What can you do to expedite your claim?

Being organized can speed up the claim resolution process and can leave you feeling less frustrated. Immediately notify proper authorities if your home is burglarized or vandalized and keep a copy of all associated paperwork. Whether the incident is the result of crime or Mother Nature, notify your insurance company as soon as possible. Insurance companies often have time limits for filing claims.

Properly completing your paperwork can often mean the difference between satisfactory resolution of your claim and a bureaucratic nightmare. Take it one step at a time and contact an insurance company representative if you need help or clarification.

  1. Obtain the proper claim forms from the insurance company.
  2. Make a comprehensive list of missing or damaged items. If you need to temporarily relocate or make immediate repairs to your home, keep all receipts. Also, take video or photographs of the damage or loss while waiting for an insurance adjuster to arrive.
  3. Complete paperwork and respond promptly to all insurance company requests. Send copies of documentation, not the originals. Keep a date log of all phone calls, including information verbally requested and provided and the name of the person with whom you spoke.

What can you do if you're still not satisfied?

If you've provided all of the information requested by the home insurance company, have waited the time period specified by your state and your claim has not been resolved or has been denied, you do have options. Before you proceed, however, make sure you have:

  • Claim number
  • Copies of all paperwork you've submitted
  • All correspondence with the insurance company--both written and via phone
  • The reason given for the delay/denial
  • Names of anyone you've spoken to about your claim and the information they provided to you

You can then contact the insurance agent or representative who sold you the policy, the claims manager of the insurance company and the organization that regulates insurance in your state.

After following these steps, if your claim still is not resolved to your satisfaction, you may need to contact an attorney.

Preparation is key

The following suggestions for being prepared can also help expedite the resolution of an insurance claim:

  • Organization. Keep all of your insurance policy information in a file that you can easily access. You may want to keep a copy of the file in a location other than your home--just in case.
  • Documentation. Take pictures or video of your valuables and keep copies outside your home. Keep receipts and insurance evaluations to document the value of your possessions.
  • Research. Before you purchase insurance, check with a consumer ratings company to find out how customers rate different insurance companies.

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