As firestorms ravage southern California communities, consumer advocates today released a checklist of steps consumers should take to make sure that insurance companies pay property damage claims. Read the disaster checklist.
"California law requires insurance companies to pay claims promptly and for the full amount covered by the policy," said Harvey Rosenfield, author of the 1988 insurance protection initiative Proposition 103. "However, as most consumers know, getting an insurance company to pay your claim can be a difficult and stressful experience. Consumers need to know how to protect themselves and their property."
"By following the checklist, consumers can make sure that they have the documentation they need in case disaster hits," said Doug Heller, FTCR's Senior Legislative Advocate. "And it will help those who have become victims of the fire make sure they are not also victimized by their insurance companies."
The basic rules:
1. Before the disaster. Make sure you bring your insurance policies and documentation of property with you if you must evacuate. (If you haven't organized your paperwork so it is portable, do it now, before disaster hits). Quick tip: use a camera or video recorder to make a record of your property and possessions.
2. After the disaster. Report claims immediately. Know your policy and your legal rights. Insist that insurers follow the rules. Keep a diary of all claims filed and conversations with the insurer. If you aren't satisfied with your treatment, demand to speak with higher level executives. If your insurer delays or offers a "low-ball" settlement, contact the California Department of Insurance -- (800) 927-HELP -- and, if necessary, contact other professionals such as a public adjuster or a lawyer to assist you.
Read the disaster checklist.