perform an annual review of your insurance policy

I recently read an article posted by Angie’s List, the membership-based website featuring thousands of unbiased reports and reviews about service companies throughout the United States. Members regularly share their experiences with each other so that others can choose the service company that’s right for their needs. Angie’s List also posts information and tips to help homeowner’s save money.

This particular article asked: “Does your homeowner’s insurance policy offer enough coverage to replace your house should catastrophe strike?”
That’s a really important question, considering your home (and your business) is probably your most valuable asset. Many homeowners (and business owners) neglect to perform an annual review of their policy, and may, over the years, end up dramatically underinsured. Angie’s List offers the following 10 tips to help homeowner’s obtain proper coverage:

1. Annual review: When you get your renewal notice, talk to your agent about whether you need to adjust your coverage. Update your policy if you have added square feet, remodeled, bought expensive items like jewelry, artwork, electronics, or a boat for example. Consider increasing your liability protection if you install a pool, or add a new pet to the family. This will help protect yourself if someone is injured on your property.
2. Get what you need: Replacement cost insurance covers the cost of replacing your home and is generally the policy for most homeowners. Your agent will evaluate your home and its contents and write a policy that would replace it at that value.
3. Get specific: Find out what your policy says about storm, water, mold, wind and flood coverage. In the past 10 years, companies have increasingly changed the language about these specific items. Ask about adding specific endorsements if your agent or company doesn’t offer the coverage you want.
4. Flood warning: If you live in a low-lying area or one that is predisposed to flooding, purchase flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program.
5. Get loss of use coverage: Consider loss of use insurance to cover rent or hotel fees in the event your home is uninhabitable after a catastrophe. Experts recommend at least one year of coverage.
6. Claim deadline: Check with your state’s Department of Insurance for the statute of limitations for filing a claim, which can vary from one to two years.
7. Safe keeping: Put important paperwork, especially policy information, in a fireproof/waterproof safe. Take photos and videos of everything in your home. Keep the originals in a safe-deposit box and send copies to relatives or friends across the country.
8. Ask around: Don’t take an insurance adjuster’s proof-of-loss statement as accurate. Instead, use at least three independent contractors’ estimates as your starting point. The insurance company’s initial payout is often drastically lower than what the work will require.
9. Public adjuster: If you experience a sizable loss, consider hiring a public insurance adjuster who will file and submit your claim on your behalf. These adjusters often have years of experience on the private insurance side and work to get homeowners the best settlement possible. Their compensation is a percentage of your settlement. That percentage varies by state.
10. Crash course: Familiarize yourself with what you are entitled to receive in the event of a loss. Ask your agent about his or her experience in handling a loss claim. An experienced agent should be able to not only detail what your policy will and will not cover, but be able to give you a good idea of what to expect if a claim takes place.

Professional Loss Adjusters deals with the items outlined in Tips 8, 9 and 10 on a daily basis, and we know that when a homeowner or business owner is faced with a catastrophe, the last thing he or she is prepared to do is begin inventorying and evaluating their loss. Here is why you should follow Tip 9 and hire a public adjuster:
• PLA has the expertise to accurately and rapidly determine the scope and value of your loss. We use high-tech equipment and years of experience to document your entire loss. This is vital for a successful settlement from the insurance company.
• The insurance company will assign their own adjusters to handle your claim. They represent the interest of the insurance company that employs them. PLA represents you—and only you. Our objective is to obtain the best settlement for you, so that you can begin rebuilding your home or business.
• PLA handles the tedious task of learning the details specific to your insurance policy. This helps you avoid the risk of making mistakes that could hinder or diminish your settlement.
• PLA relieves you of the time-consuming and difficult matters involved in preparing and filing a claim with your insurance company. This leaves you free to concentrate on recovering and rebuilding your life.
• PLA’s professionals include former insurance company adjusters, a certified arson investigator, a damage control expert with the U.S. Navy, a former senior statistician and research analyst, an economist and mechanical engineers.
We’ve secured hundreds of millions of dollars in claims for homeowners and business owners. Wouldn’t you rather work with a team of professionals who work for you, and not for your insurance company? Angie thinks so.

—Leonard Theran