How to file an earthquake insurance claim

After an earthquake, make sure everyone is safe and deal with any injuries, and then follow these steps to file a claim:

  1. Call the claims number on your insurance policy. If you have an endorsement, this will be your homeowners policy. If you have a standalone earthquake policy, call that insurance carrier.
  1. If it's safe, do some minor, temporary repairs to prevent further damage to your home. You want to prevent water damage, exposure to the elements, gas leaks and other possible compounded issues.
  1. Document all the damage. Take pictures, videos, gather receipts and serial numbers. Provide as much evidence as you can.
  1. Cooperate with the insurance adjuster assigned to your case. Meet all deadlines and complete all paperwork in a timely manner.
  1. Get repair estimates from reputable, licensed contractors. Sometimes your insurance company has a list of contractors they recommend, but you can choose whichever contractor you prefer.

“The most important thing is to keep really good records on your loss and your claim,” says Brenda Wells, chair of the Department of Finance and Insurance at East Carolina University. The more documentation the better, and notes of who you speak to during the process will help if you hit any roadblocks along the way. This will all help, too,  if your claim is denied and you need to appeal.

Filing a California Earthquake Authority claim

If you got your policy through the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), you'll still be filing your claim with the individual insurance carrier that insures you. The CEA requires that you purchase earthquake insurance from the same insurance company as your regular homeowners policy.

Follow all the same steps above to file your claim. 

One benefit of policies obtained through the CEA is that they tend to have lower deductibles and options for emergency repairs.

You can also call the California Department of Insurance if you encounter any issues with your insurance or your claims at 1-800-927-4357.

How long do you have to file an earthquake claim?

The amount of time you have to file an earthquake varies from state to state and also depends on your insurance carrier. The typical statute of limitations for filing a claim is one to two years.

You should always file a claim as soon as possible, however. After a natural disaster, insurance companies are inundated with claims, so the sooner you file, the better.

Also, the more time that passes, the more of a chance your claim could be denied. It's hard to prove exactly what caused the damage to your home as time passes and more damage can occur. If you leave your home in disrepair and let the elements cause further damage, the insurance company can't determine what damage is from your negligence and what's from the initial event. It's best to start the claims process right away.